Filipino citizens and analysts say one of the “stealthiest, most technologically advanced” nuclear-powered submarines in the world, a US Navy attack submarine near the Philippines violates a Philippines’ law banning nuclear weapons and is escalating the country’s territorial row with China.
The US Pacific Command (US Pacom) based in Hawaii confirmed that the USS North Carolina (SSN-772), a Virginia-class fast attack submarine, docked on Sunday at the former American naval installation in Subic Bay, Zambales province in Central Luzon, over which both China and the Philippines claim sovereignty.
“The Philippines is de facto hosting US warships presumably armed with nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction. The entry of the nuclear submarine may be in contravention of the Philippines constitutional ban on nuclear weapons,” Bayan Secretary-General Renato Reyes was quoted by Gulf News as saying.
“Article II, Section 8 of the Philippines Constitution states that the Philippines, consistent with the national interest, adopts and pursues a policy of freedom from nuclear weapons in its territory.”
The visit of the nuclear-powered vessel marks a strategic threat to China rather than a concrete tactic, said Xu Liping, an expert on Asia-Pacific studies with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
“The visit shows America’s clandestine support for the Philippines on the issue despite the US saying it takes no stance on territorial claims”, said Xu.
“What the US does is more important than what it says. China should alert to the issue.”
Yang Baoyun, a professor of Asian studies at Peking University, told China Daily that the vessel’s visit may not be just because of the recent tension between China and the Philippines; it is also one step in Washington’s “return to Asia” strategy.
“If there was no issue over Huangyan Island, the US will still increase its military presence in the Asia-Pacific region…The Huangyan Island issue is accelerating Washington’s pace in returning to the region.”
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