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Aquino talks South China Sea row

Philippine President Benigno Aquino has said he may ask the United States to deploy spy planes in the South China Sea to help monitor the disputed waters. It is a move that could potentially worsen tension with neighbouring China. The two countries only recently stepped back from a months-long stand-off at the Scarborough Shoal, an area both nations claim as their own. Referring to U.S. P3C Orion spy planes, Aquino told Reuters in the Malacanang presidential palace that a request may be on the cards. SOUNDBITE: PHILIPPINE PRESIDENT BENIGNO AQUINO SAYING (English): "We might be requesting for overflights of that. That doesn't preclude us. We don't have aircraft with those capabilities." The United States has said it is neutral in the long-running maritime dispute. Last month, Aquino pulled out a lightly armed coast guard ship and a fisheries boat due to bad weather around the Scarborough Shoal, a group of rock formations about 140 miles (225 km) west of the main Philippine island of Luzon. Aquino said it expected China to respond with a similar move to diffuse tensions. SOUNDBITE: PHILIPPINE PRESIDENT BENIGNO AQUINO SAYING (English): "I think the Philippines has demonstrated time and again its interest to preserve the peace and the de-escalation of the situation. But we don't exist in a vacuum. We would want to see China reciprocate all of these moves that we've done as far as de-escalating the tensions." Aquino said he would not object to an increased "rotational tempo" for U.S. military forces in the country to help train their Filipino counterparts. The president added that China should not be alarmed by Philippines efforts to improve its monitoring capability in the area. SOUNDBITE: PHILIPPINE PRESIDENT BENIGNO AQUINO SAYING (English): "Does the Philippines have a capacity to become an aggressor - and by any stretch of the imagination, the Philippines does not have. So why should it upset a superpower if we're all reasonable?" Aquino also prescribed a code of conduct in the disputed waters, a topic that is due for discussion in the summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Cambodia next week. The South China Sea is potentially the biggest military flashpoint in Asia, and tensions have risen since the United States adopted a policy last year to reinforce its influence in the region. At stake is control over what are believed to be significant reserves of oil and gas.

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