In an interview today with Reuters, Philippines President Benigno Aquino said his country is considering formally asking the US for drones to conduct overflights in the disputed South China Sea, saying that the Philippines lacked such capabilities.
The US State Department declined to directly address the possibility until the request was made, but did say that the “United States supports the Philippines in enhancing its maritime domain awareness.”
China’s top newspaper was critical of the suggestion, saying Aquino was “deliberately stirring up tensions” over the disputed region. The two nations have been disputing control over a number of deserted islands in the region, which would theoretically give them access to mineral resources under the sea.
Philippines Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said in May that the US had agreed it was obliged to protect Philippines territorial claims in the region under the terms of the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty. The US has been supporting the claims of not just the Philippines, but also Indonesia and Vietnam, while condemning China for making similar claims.