Separately, Philippine police said Wednesday that its maritime group had apprehended a Chinese fishing vessel loaded with hundreds of sea turtles near Half Moon Shoal, a sandbar in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, drawing swift condemnation from Beijing.
*The Philippines has turned to Washington, its longtime defense treaty ally, for help to modernize its navy and air force, among Asia's weakest. Chinese paramilitary ships took effective control of the disputed Scarborough Shoal, a rich fishing ground off the northwestern Philippines, in 2012. Last year, Chinese coast guard ships were deployed to another contested offshore South China Sea territory, the Second Thomas Shoal, where they have been trying to block food supplies and rotation of Filipino marines aboard a grounded Philippine navy ship in the shallow waters of the remote coral outcrops.
*Japan's new military base: The new base "should give Japan the ability to expand surveillance to near the Chinese mainland," said Heigo Sato, a professor at Takushoku University and a former researcher at the Defense Ministry's National Institute for Defense Studies.
"It will allow early warning of missiles and supplement the monitoring of Chinese military movements." China's
decision last year to establish an air-defence identification zone in
the East China Sea, including the skies above the disputed
Senkaku/Diaoyu islets, further rattled Tokyo.
The U.S. Takes Sides in a Dispute Between China and Japan as world war again begins to shroud the world
China ratchets up control over South China sea coming closer to confrontation
Philippines drops food to troops after China "blockade": "We confirmed there was an air drop of food to our troops," Defence Department spokesman Peter Paul Galvez said. He said the air drop was "via airplane," but did not say when it occurred nor give further details. The incident took place at Second Thomas Shoal in the Spratly island group, which is around 200 kilometres (125 miles) from the western Philippine island of Palawan and which Manila insists is part of its continental shelf.
The shoal is more than 1,000 kilometres from Hainan island, the closest Chinese landmass, but China claims nearly all of the South China Sea based on what it says are historical records. A tiny unit of Filipino marines live on the BRP Sierra Madre, a decrepit, beached former World-War-II US navy transport ship that was transferred to the Philippine navy and run aground on the shoal in the 1990s. China has long demanded the Philippines pull out the vessel and the marines.