GLOBAL ONE NEWS — A heavy presence of Chinese vessels has been spotted around Pag-asa Island (Thitu Island) in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), a Washington-based think tank said.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative said Thursday, Feb. 7 a mix of fishing boats and naval and coast guard ships from China were spotted anchored and operating in the contested area “since at least July 2018.”

It said recent satellite images showed “a handful” of Chinese vessels in mid-December last year during the peak of construction of defense facilities on the island. As of Jan. 26, 42 Chinese ships were in the area.

The Philippines in 2017 began ramping up the construction of defense facilities on the island, which China also claims.

Pag-asa is part of the Spratly island chain, where China, Vietnam, Malaysia and Taiwan have also fortified islands.