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Report: U.S. Flying Reconnaissance Missions for Philippines in South China Sea

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A P-3C Orion. US Navy Photo

A P-3C Orion. US Navy Photo

A Monday report alleges U.S. Navy P-3C Orion aircraft are flying in support of the Philippines over disputed territory in the South China Sea.

A classified document — seen by the Japanese Kyodo News service — said the surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft flew over the Second Thomas Shoal, part of the Spratley Island chain.

The disputed island chain has been the site of rising tension between the Filipinos and the Chinese in recent days.

“The military is aware of its limitations as regards equipment, naval and air assets, facilities and funding to support our efforts,” the document said.

The Filipino military, “needs another perspective of intelligence from higher headquarters and agencies that are relevant to our efforts.”

Officials with the Hawaii-based U,S, Pacific Fleet told USNI News they were aware of the Kyodo News report but would neither confirm any of the reports details.

“We routinely operate in international airspace around the world to maintain a forward presence to support security and stability,” read a Tuesday statement provided to USNI News.


View Alleged P-3C Flights in a larger map

Since last year, Philippine President Benigno Aquino III has asked for help to monitor the region to the east given the limitations of the country’s military resources.

Since February, China has sent warships and surveillance vessels in and around the Second Thomas Shoal according to local press reports.

Partially in response to increased Chinese activity, Japan and the Philippines signed an agreement on July 27 for Japan to lend the Philippines ten coast guard patrol vessels.

The Aquino administration is also reported to be in negotiations with the U.S. to provide the Pentagon Greater access to military installations.

This post has been updated from an earlier version to include a statement from officials at U.S. Pacific Fleet.