Claim on 200 Chinese militia vessels in WPS, U.S. action vs China MISLEADS

March 23, 2023

A video posted on YouTube and Facebook (FB) presented as “breaking news” footage of the alleged presence of 200 Chinese militia vessels in the West Philippine Sea and actions taken by the United States’ (U.S.) against the threat.

This is misleading. The claims are based on two-year-old reports.

The claim about the presence of Chinese militia vessels in the West Philippine Sea is not breaking news. Media organizations reported this on March 21, 2021. Neither is America's stance on China's aggression in the South China Sea breaking news. It first appeared in a 2021 journal article.

In the video posted March 17 by FB page Military Search (created on May 28, 2022) and YouTube channel Maki Trip (created on March 13, 2019), a narrator claimed:

Ayon sa mga ulat, merong halos dalawandaang Chinese vessels na nakakalat sa West Philippine Sea (According to reports, two hundred Chinese vessels are scattered across the West Philippine Sea).”

On March 21, 2021, news organizations Philstar.com, Inquirer.net, and The Guardian reported on this.

The misleading video appeared a week after the Philippine Coast Guard reported on March 10 the presence of 15 Chinese maritime militia (CMM) ships around Pag-asa Island, a Philippine Liberation Army Navy vessel and a Chinese Coast Guard vessel in the vicinity of Pag-asa Island, and 17 CMM ships over Sabina Shoal.

The eight-minute video also claimed that the U.S. Department of Defense released a statement saying that bringing military assets to the South China Sea (SCS) would demonstrate their commitment to their allies and protect freedom of navigation in the Asia Pacific region.

This is not breaking news. The claim originated from an article in the Journal of Indo-Pacific Affairs published in the summer of 2021, which explains the U.S. response to China’s aggression in the SCS. The original text read:

“…the United States will send an aircraft carrier battle group supported by air assets and missile defense that are joined by partner naval and air forces to the SCS to cooperatively monitor the Chinese naval threat and other emergent threats to freedom of navigation.”

The misleading video got a total of 1.1 million interactions on Facebook and 147,272 interactions on YouTube.

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(Editor’s Note: VERA Files has partnered with Facebook to fight the spread of disinformation. Find out more about this partnership and our methodology.)

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VERA Files

VERA Files is a nonstock, nonprofit, independent media organization. Founded in March 2008, it is published by veteran Filipino journalists taking a deeper look into current Philippine issues. Vera is Latin for “true.”

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