Meanwhile, Grossman welcomed the fact that Vietnam has significantly raised the level of defense cooperation with countries like Australia, India, Japan, and the U.S. In March, for the first time, a U.S. aircraft carrier made a port visit to Vietnam, emphasizing growing defense ties with Washington.
China has voiced "strong dissatisfaction" after two U.S. naval warships passed within 12 nautical miles of Chinese-claimed islands in while conducting naval manoeuvring exercises, adding to simmering tensions in the strategic waterway.
But speaking at a hearing focusing on the South China Sea on Wednesday at the legislative assembly, former Philippine maritime officer Rep. Gary Alejano revealed just how quiet the government's been in dealing with China in the disputed waters.
What Happened: U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis said the United States will continue "a steady drumbeat" of naval exercises to challenge China's territorial claims in the South China Sea, CNN reported May 29. This comes at a time when the US President Trump seeks to seek Beijing cooperation on North Korea. The move signals USA rejection of China's claims of political control in the South China Sea.
Mattis also said the USA would continue to "confront what we believe is out of step with worldwide law, out of step with global tribunals that have spoken on the issue".
China has told the Philippines that there should be no new occupation of uninhabited areas under a 2002 accord and "we should not embarrass each other in front of all, in all multilaterals and bilaterals", he said.
China should also not attempt to remove the BRP Sierra Madre from Ayungin [Second Thomas] Shoal, where the government grounded it in 1999 to mark Philippine territory in the Spratly archipelago, he added. Ousting China from the exercise could signal that joint activities, or the military relationship as a whole, are a reward. He said the best reaction would be a coherent, consistent and strong strategy that not only makes use of the military tools for deterrence or "compellence" against Chinese behavior in the South China Sea, but also deploys a more holistic set of instruments.
Beijing has been building artificial islands to reinforce its claim over most of the resource-rich South China Sea, despite protests from Southeast Asian countries.
Duterte's national security adviser Hermogenes Esperon said that the Philippines will always pursue diplomacy to defuse tensions, but that it would also be prepared to enter a conflict should their military forces be provoked or hurt.
Its neighbours, particularly some of those involved in maritime disputes over the waters, have expressed fears China could eventually restrict freedom of navigation and overflight.
Mattis was heading to Hawaii to attend a change-of-command ceremony for the USA military's Pacific Command.
"The Chinese military is unshakably determined to strengthen its naval and air combat readiness, raise defence levels, safeguard national sovereignty and security, and maintain regional peace and stability", said MND spokesperson Wu Qian in a statement issued that same day, reiterating Beijing's view that the Paracels are China's "inherent territory". He will be replaced by Admiral Philip Davidson.