U.S. Will Send More Ships to South China Sea, Philippines Ambassador Says

More United States Navy vessels will be deployed to the disputed South China Sea, according to the Philippines Ambassador to the U.S.

Jose Manuel Romualdez said on Sunday that there will be an increase of vessels in the contested region and that this would be part of a freedom of navigation operation.

It comes after the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group arrived in the South China Sea on April 4. It is the second time this year that it has entered the waters as part of operations.

Speaking with GMA's Dobol B TV, Romualdez said: "They've (the U.S. Navy) been increasing it in the past several months...they'll keep increasing it continuously, precisely to protect the seaway there," according to a Philippine Daily Inquirer translation.

"That is freedom of navigation, any vessel can pass through there without any harassment or any stop from any country."

He continued: "Our friends have assured us that they are really concerned and they are ready to help us the moment we ask for help and when our situation with China worsens.

"I hope China is not our foe and the situation does not escalate. I hope these Chinese vessels just leave our territory."

Under the Mutual Defense Treaty between the Philippines and the U.S. both nations would support one another if they were attacked by an "external armed attack."

Tensions in the South China Sea have escalated in the past years with the People's Republic of China (PRC) laying claim to large parts of the region, including waters claimed by the Philippines.

Earlier this month, the Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte became enraged when an estimated 200 Chinese fishing vessels positioned themselves around the Whitsun Reed, which the Philippines calls the Julian Felipe Reef and is claimed by the country.

According to the Financial Times, China's foreign ministry accused the Philippines of "hyping" what had happened and claimed the vessels had been "sheltering from the wind."

The outlet continued, adding the Duterte administration said weather that day had not been severe and analysts added that structures have been built on reefs by the PRC to further their claims in the region.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has strongly criticized China and on Sunday took aim at the country's claim to the island-nation of Taiwan, situated northwest of the Philippines.

He said: "What we've seen, and what is of real concern to us, is increasingly aggressive actions by the government in Beijing directed at Taiwan, raising tensions in the Straits.

"And we have a commitment to Taiwan under the Taiwan Relations Act, a bipartisan commitment that's existed for many, many years, to make sure that Taiwan has the ability to defend itself, and to make sure that we're sustaining peace and security in the Western Pacific."

Taiwan has long operated independently with the backing of Western allies, including the U.S. and has grown concerned in recent years that its larger neighbor could attempt to assert its dominance over the island.

Newsweek has contacted the U.S. Navy for comment.

The aircraft carrier arrived in the region
The Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group arrived in the South China Sea on April 4. In this photo, the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) leaves its San Diego homeport Jan. 17, 2020. The Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group is on a scheduled deployment to the Indo-Pacific. U.S. Navy Handout/U.S.Navy Handout/ Getty