State media reported that China drilled deep in the South China Sea to get the core of sediment from the seabed, amid tensions over disputed waters with claimants Taiwan and the Philippines, as the United States intensified. Naval presence in the area.
According to the Xinhua News Agency on Thursday, Chinese scientists aboard a marine research vessel used a Chinese homemade Sea Bull II drilling system to take a core of sediment 231 meters (757 feet) long in degrees. 2,060m (6,760ft) deep, according to the Xinhua News Agency on Thursday.
The system can help explore sources of natural gas hydrates on the seabed, referring to ice-like solid crystals formed from a mixture of methane and water, Xinhua added. a promising energy source.
It is not clear exactly where the drilling took place in the South China Sea, about 90% of which is claimed by Beijing as its territorial sea. The Court of International Arbitration at The Hague has declared that such a request has no legal basis.
Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam and Brunei also claim sovereignty over the waters where there is vast oil and gas potential.
Tensions in the region have escalated in recent weeks following revelations 200 Chinese “marine militia” ships It has been accumulated at Whitsun Reef, about 320 km (200 miles) west of the island of Palawan and within the Exclusive Economic Zone of the Philippines (EEZ).
Since then, the US has deployed a Navy strike group led by the USS Theodore Roosevelt, into the South China Sea on Sunday.
According to a report by the South China Morning Post on Friday, the US also deployed the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island to enter the busy sea route through the Strait of Malacca.
The group is also believed to include the amphibious transport dock USS San Diego, the publication reported, citing information from the Beijing-based South China Sea Strategic Situation Initiative.
The United States defended its latest naval operations and called it “regular” transit and in accordance with the principle of “freedom of navigation”.
‘All options are open’
The Philippines, an ally of the United States, has developed closer ties with Beijing since President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration recently voiced concerns about the presence of Chinese ships in the EEZ. of this country.
On Thursday, the Philippine Defense Ministry said it was keeping “all our options open” as Manila’s diplomatic dispute with Beijing intensified.
Philippine Defense Ministry spokesman Arsenio Andolong said: “As the situation (in the South China Sea) evolves, we always leave all our options open to managing the situation, including promoting our partnership. our partnerships with other countries like the United States ”.
The State Department has also pledged to file daily diplomatic protests until the Chinese ships leave the Whitsun Reef.
Autonomous Taiwan, which China claims is its own territory, has also threatened to shoot down Chinese drones flying around the Taipei-controlled Pratas Islands in the South China Sea.
In recent days, tensions in the Taiwan Strait have also increased, with the self-governing democratic island reporting on Wednesday that 15 mainland planes had flown into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone.
Taipei warns that it will defend itself “until the last day” if necessary.
On Monday, China’s Liaoning aircraft carrier also led a naval exercise near Taiwan and Beijing said such drills would become routine.
China’s oil and gas exploration activities in the South China Sea have caused tension before, especially when the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNOOC) deployed a deep water rig in the waters claimed by Vietnam. sovereignty in 2014.
One-third of world trade, estimated at more than $ 3 trillion, passes through the South China Sea every year.