More Chinese military ships have been monitored in areas near islands in the South China Sea that are within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
According to defense and security expert Raymond Powell, based on their automatic tracking system or ATS, at least seven Chinese maritime militia ships were sighted 3 to 5 nautical miles off Pag-asa (Thitu) Island while the Philippine Coast Guard’s (PCG) BRP Melchora Aquino is anchored off the island.
“Philippine Coast Guard ship BRP Melchora Aquino should get a good view when the sun comes up, assuming they remain within 3 to 5 nm (and well within Pag-asa’s territorial sea),” Powell posted on Twitter on Tuesday.
Fifteen probable China maritime militia and/or fishing ships were visible in Iroquois Reef, which is inside the Philippines’ EEZ and 125 nautical miles from the Palawan coast, he said.
On Monday, six other militia ships were monitored to be “in the Paracels” before they continued their voyage south, Powell said.
“At Pag-asa, a few of China’s militia ships are in evidence, as most have remained scattered around the area, seemingly intent on staying out of camera shot while BRP Melchora Aquino is anchored off the island,” the head of Project Myoushu Team of Stanford University’s Gordian Knot Center for National Security Innovation added.
Earlier this month, the PCG reported a decrease in the number of suspected Chinese maritime militia vessels on Pag-asa Island.
The PCG said the observation was made during its Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) flight over Pag-asa Island, Ayungin Shoal and Sabina Shoal.
Only 15 vessels were spotted this time, down from the 42 that were seen earlier this month anchored off the Philippine-administered island in the West Philippine Sea.
Pag-asa Island is the second largest of the naturally occurring land feature in the WPS and the largest of the Philippine-administered Kalayaan Island Group serving as the seat of the local government of the Municipality of Kalayaan in Palawan.
It lies about 480 kilometers west of Puerto Princesa City in Palawan.
More than 400 civilians — including some 70 children — call the island home together with stationed military, law enforcement and civilian government personnel.