China’s Foreign Ministry said yesterday it was perfectly normal for Chinese companies to conduct “economic activities” in the South China Sea, after the Philippines complained about Chinese ships in waters claimed by Manila.
According to the Philippine military, the ships placed a buoy and posts near a bank in the sea. The Philippines defence secretary said the incidents occurred while China’s defence minister was in Manila.
The Philippines said it had sought an explanation from the Chinese embassy on what Chinese navy ships and a marine surveillance vessel were doing there.
“I don’t know about that,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a regular news briefing, when asked about the representations the Philippines had made to the Chinese embassy.
“What I want to stress is that relevant Chinese companies undertaking economic activities in waters under Chinese jurisdiction is completely normal,” Hong said.
The South China Sea covers an area of more than 648,000 square miles (1.7 million sq km), containing more than 200 mostly uninhabitable small islands, rocks and reefs.
China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan all claim territories in the sea, which covers an important shipping route and is thought to hold untapped oil and gas reserves.
In March, the Philippines filed a protest with China after Manila said two Chinese patrol boats tried to ram a survey ship.
Last week, Vietnam said three Chinese patrol boats had challenged a Vietnamese ship exploring for oil in the South China Sea.