The Philippine defence department said Thursday it was keeping “all our options open” as a diplomatic row with Beijing grows over hundreds of Chinese vessels in the contested South China Sea.
Tensions over the resource-rich waters have spiked in recent weeks after more than 200 Chinese boats were detected at Whitsun Reef, in the Spratly Islands, where China and the Philippines have rival claims.
China, which claims almost the entirety of the sea, has refused repeated appeals by the Philippines to withdraw the vessels, which Manila says unlawfully entered its exclusive economic zone.
While President Rodrigo Duterte has appeared reluctant to confront China on the issue, one of his top aides warned Monday the boats could ignite “unwanted hostilities”.
“As the situation (in the South China Sea) evolves, we keep all our options open in managing the situation, including leveraging our partnerships with other nations such as the United States,” Philippine defence department spokesman Arsenio Andolong said Thursday.
Andolong’s comments came after the United States reminded China of Washington’s treaty obligations to the Philippines in the event of an attack in the waters.