US bucks China’s offer of bases in disputed isles for humanitarian missions

Photo Credit: Philippine Daily Inquirer

The United States has rejected China’s offer to let it use its bases in the disputed areas of the West Philippine Sea as a staging ground for humanitarian and relief operations; saying no amount of justification would suffice for its ongoing reclamation activities in the area.

In a statement on Thursday, acting deputy spokesperson Jeff Rathke of the US State Department said his country rejects a high-ranking Chinese official’s suggestion to use the bases for international missions of a non-military nature.

“Even if they were used on humanitarian and civilian grounds, the building of facilities by China will certainly be a detriment to the region’s peace and stability,” he said.

“If China wants to reduce tension, it should halt its reclamation program,” he said.

Chinese Admiral Wu Shengli earlier offered his US equivalent John Shengli the use of China’s bases in the area.

“They (bases) are not a threat to the navigation and overflight of other countries, and will greatly contribute to search-and-rescue missions, maritime security, and weather forecasting, Wu said, adding China welcomes not only the US but also other countries to use the facilities especially in conducting humanitarian missions.

 However, Rathke said it would be better for China to work with existing multi-country associations such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) insofar as humanitarian missions are concerned.

China, Taiwan, and several members of the ASEAN are currently embroiled in a dispute over the resource-rich West Philippine Sea which is also one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.

China claims the area in whole while ASEAN member-states claim a portion of it.

In the ASEAN summit on Monday, the Philippines warned China’s reclamation activities could have serious geo-political and environmental implications for ASEAN if its members do not put up a stronger, united front against their giant neighbor.