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Philippines Downplays Request for U.S. Surveillance Drones

Jul. 3, 2012 - 11:34AM   |  
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MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines on July 3 said the deployment of U.S. spy planes, suggested by President Benigno Aquino, was just one option to monitor the country’s territory, as China appealed for stability in the region.

“If they happen at all, they are surveillance flights, they are not meant to be provocative. There’s no offensive capability here,” said Ricky Carandang, the president’s spokesman.

China’s foreign ministry, in an embassy statement quoting spokesman Liu Weimin, called on all parties to maintain “peace and stability” in the South China Sea.

“We have noticed the reports,” the spokesman said. “It is the hope of the Chinese side that peace and stability can be maintained ... and parties concerned do things conducive to regional peace and stability.”

It did not specify the Philippines or the United States or mention the three-month long dispute between China and the Philippines over the Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea. The dispute began after Chinese government vessels blocked Philippine ships from arresting Chinese fishermen near the shoal April 10.

Both countries have been pressing their respective claims to the area, with the poorly equipped Philippines seeking the support of the U.S., its main defense ally.

China claims nearly all of the South China Sea, even waters close to the coasts of neighboring countries. The Philippines says the shoal is well within its 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone.

The shoal sits about 140 miles (230 kilometers) from the western coast of the Philippines’ main island of Luzon. The nearest major Chinese land mass is 1,200 kilometers northwest of the shoal, according to Philippine Navy maps.

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