Philippines Secretly Reinforces Ship at Center of South China Sea Dispute

The Philippines has secretly reinforced a dilapidated warship marooned on a South China Sea reef that is central to an increasingly dangerous dispute with Beijing, according to six people familiar with the operation.

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In recent months, the Philippine military has conducted missions to reinforce the Sierra Madre, which is lodged on the disputed Second Thomas Shoal in the Spratly Islands, the people said. It did so due to rising concern that the rusting ship was in danger of breaking apart...

In recent months, the Philippine military has conducted missions to reinforce the Sierra Madre, which is lodged on the disputed Second Thomas Shoal in the Spratly Islands, the people said. It did so due to rising concern that the rusting ship was in danger of breaking apart.

John Sexton

There was a hint that the Philippines was doing this in a story I wrote about here last November. China clearly is aware that the Philippines is reinforcing the ship with concrete and this explains their increasing belligerence at sea. They have been counting on the ship rusting into the sea at which point they will claim the Shoal. But if the Philippines can build an outpost there (exactly as China itself has done on other islands nearby) then China may never get a chance to claim it.

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