By Arjay L. Balinbin, Reporter
MALACAÑANG on Thursday said it is “concerned” with the Pentagon’s recent report that “a nuclear element” may be brought into the disputed South China Sea region, noting that the Southeast Asian region has a nuclear-weapon-free zone policy.
“We’re concerned about the entry of any and all nuclear weapons into the Philippine territory because our Constitution provides that we are nuclear-free zone. There’s also an ASEAN treaty declaring the whole ASEAN as a nuclear-free zone, and we are concerned about the possibility that any foreign power — be it American, Russian, Chinese — may bring nuclear warheads into our territory and into ASEAN, which is declared as a nuclear-free zone,” Mr. Roque said in a press briefing at the Palace on Thursday afternoon, Aug. 23.
In its annual report to Congress, as posted on the U.S. Naval Institute’s online news site, the United States (US) Department of Defense said: “In 2017, China indicated development plans may be underway to power islands and reefs in the typhoon-prone South China Sea with floating nuclear power stations; development reportedly is to begin prior to 2020.”
The Pentagon also said the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) “has begun fielding a road-mobile, nuclear and conventional capable IRBM (intermediate range ballistic missile), expanding its near-precision strike capability as far as the second island chain.”
Mr. Roque said the Philippine government will verify the information. “If we could, we will try verifying, we will try approaching any of these suspected nuclear warheads carrying ship and see if you can actually even board them. I don’t think they can be boarded.”
“So the concern is against all nuclear, possible nuclear-carrying vessels from all countries,” he added.