Philippines verifying photos of China military aircraft on disputed reef

Construction is shown on Mischief Reef, in the Spratly Islands, in this June 19, 2017 satellite image released by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). (Reuters file photo)
Updated 19 April 2018
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Philippines verifying photos of China military aircraft on disputed reef

  • China claims almost the entire South China Sea, host to islands claimed separately by Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam
  • China and Southeast Asian countries started negotiations in Vietnam last month on a code of conduct in the South China Sea

MANILA: The Philippines may lodge a protest with China against the reported presence of two military aircraft on a Chinese-built island in the South China Sea, the top Philippine diplomat said, amid concern that China is militarizing the waterway.
The Philippine Daily Inquirer published pictures on Wednesday that it said showed two military transport aircraft on the tarmac of Mischief Reef, which the Philippines claims.
The reef is the closest of the artificial islands that China has developed to the Philippines, and within its 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone.
The newspaper said the photos were taken in January this year. Reuters could not verify the authenticity or date of the pictures.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano told reporters the defense and military establishments had been asked to confirm the presence of the aircraft, after which the Philippines could ask China to explain it.
“Filing a protest is one of the diplomatic actions being considered, pending a confirmation from the defense department,” Cayetano said, adding the Philippines has proposed claimants reverse defense enhancements in the Spratly islands.
“Many claimants are putting embankments, radar, and other defensive mechanisms, the challenge now is how to stop it and roll it back,” he added.
China claims almost the entire South China Sea, a strategic waterway where about $3 trillion worth of sea-borne goods pass every year. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have conflicting claims in the sea.
The Inquirer showed what it said were surveillance photos obtained from an unnamed source, showing what appeared to be two Xian Y-7 transport planes.
The military declined to comment and China’s embassy in Manila did not respond immediately to a request for comment.
China’s Defense Ministry also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Cayetano said claimants were talking to each other as well as “non-regional players” to resolve disputes and avoid a regional arms race.
China and Southeast Asian countries started negotiations in Vietnam last month on a code of conduct in the South China Sea, starting with “less sensitive and less controversial” issues, he said.
Cayetano said they had identified common issues before discussing contentious provisions, such as whether the code would be legally binding and include sanctions against offenders.
He said there was no time frame for conclusion and adoption of the code.
The drafting of the code has been met with widespread skepticism, with some experts convinced China’s uncharacteristic support for it is aimed at placating Southeast Asian states while buying time to completes its military installations in the sea. 


French tourist shot dead in Bangkok by off-duty Thai cop

Updated 12 December 2018
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French tourist shot dead in Bangkok by off-duty Thai cop

  • The Parisian was shot dead at a downtown apartment block after an altercation with a police sergeant major
  • Policeman followed him back to his place and shot him twice

BANGKOK, Thailand: A French tourist was gunned down early Wednesday by an off-duty Thai cop after a drunken bar fight in a seedy Bangkok district, police said.
The 41-year-old Parisian was shot dead at a downtown apartment block after an altercation with the police sergeant major who had approached the tourist’s Thai girlfriend.
“They were drunk... they started to argue and then had a fist fight but the policeman couldn’t fight back,” the Chief of Thailand’s Immigration Police Surachate Hakpan told AFP.
“The policeman followed him back to his place and shot him twice,” he said, adding the victim had been in Thailand for several months.
The officer has been arrested and “will be fired... and prosecuted on a murder charge,” Surachate added.
Police are hunting a second suspect seen on CCTV.
Gruesome pictures circulated on Thai media showed the victim lying in a pool of blood in front of a doughnut shop at his apartment block.
Bangkok is one of the world’s most visited cities, famed for its food and racy nightlife, much of it around Nana district where the murder took place.
Thailand has a grim reputation for its gun culture, with drunken arguments, business disputes and soured romances frequently resolved by violence.