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Thread: The Scarborough Standoff

  1. #1

    The Scarborough Standoff

    Good read from Raissa Robles:

    Why get so riled up over some rocks under the sea?
    April 23, 2012 ·

    The Scarborough standoff is between an elephant and an ant – Domingo Siazon, former foreign secretary
    My exclusive
    By Raïssa Robles

    Why is the Philippines quarreling with China over a reef that sinks mostly under the sea at high tide? And why should Filipinos care who controls Scarborough Shoal?

    Scarborough Shoal is a triangle-shaped reef with a circumference of 46 kilometers. A 370-meter channel cuts through the reef and leads to an inner lagoon. Several rock formations jut out on the reef but only one – the South Rock – remains above water at high tide.
    It is also referred to as an atoll or “island consisting of a circular coral reef surrounding a lagoon.”
    Former Philippine Foreign Secretary Domingo Siazon described the current stand-off at Scarborough Shoal between China and the Philippines as “between (two countries) the size of an elephant and an ant.”

    ” It’s not comparable at all,” he told me in an interview.

    China recently sent an all-white patrol vessel – the Yuzheng-310 – its most advanced non-military ship in order to enforce its sovereignty over the Shoal which it started calling Huangyan Island in 1983.

    The same area in the South China Sea, however, continues to be patrolled by a Philippine Coast Guard ship, the BRP Edsa 2.

    According to Chinese media, over 20 Philippine-registered vessels also continue to stay there, ostensibly conducting archeological research.

    Beijing has said that whatever shipwreck lies beneath belongs to them. Manila has ignored this. In a separate interview, China expert Chito Sta Romana cautioned that the situation could trigger a short but violent confrontation:

    There is a potential for miscalculation.

    Siazon aired the same assessment.

    What if PH simply gives up the Shoal to China?

    Before I go any further, I would like to raise some important points on the issue. First, what Filipinos might not realize is that this kindof tension is nothing new in the area. Second, the Spratlys Islands are different and separate from the Scarborough Shoal. While Spratlys and Scarborough Shoal are both in the South China Sea (recently baptized by the Philippine government as the West Philippine Sea), Spratlys and Scarborough are two distinct areas and not to be confused for one or the other. Third, it’s very shallow to look at the present face-off through the lens of pure military confrontation and showdown. I will explain that later.

    And fourth, while only the Philippines and China are claiming Scarborough, its sole acquisition and control by China could have far-reaching implications for the region, especially for Japan and India, and for the United States.

    As for the Philippines, it would mean that China would totally own an area that is only 137 nautical miles from Palauig, Zambales, but at least 500 nautical miles from Hainan Island. Hainan “administers” Scarborough and other contested areas in the South China Sea. Itwould mean China would control the surrounding seas radiating 12 miles around the Shoal and this is within the Philippines’ 200 mile Exclusive Economic Zone under the UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas). It would mean that Filipino fishermen who wander into this 12-mile radius could be harassed, their catch confiscated, and even arrested. It would mean that Filipino fishermen might no longer seek shelter within the reef’s inner lagoon, as they have done for centuries during sea storms. The Shoal derived one of its names from the tea-trade ship Scarborough that was shipwrecked there in the late 1800s.

    How far is Scarborough Shoal by sea?

    I wondered how far Hainan was to Scarborough Shoal and how near the Shoal was to the Philippine main island of Luzon. The Chinese government has been very careful not to give away the distance between Hainan and Scarborough but I’ve read it is at least 500 nautical miles. Perhaps knowledgeable experts could help me out on this. Anyway, I phoned the Philippine Navy yesterday to find out how long a ship would take – say the BRP Gregorio del Pilar – to sail from Zambales to the Shoal and from the Shoal to Hainan ( assuming the distances of 137 nautical miles from Zambales to the Shoal and 500 nautical miles from the Shoal to Hainan). I was told to divide the nautical miles by the ship’s steaming speed of 24 knots. This means BRP Gregorio del Pilar would take about 5.7 hours from Zambales to Scarborough. But from Scarborough to Hainan would take 20.8 hours.
    This means a fast ship like BRP Gregorio del Pilar would take over a day to sail to Zambales all the way from Hainan – now home to China’s nuclear submarine base..

    A Filipino academic who is an expert on international law cautioned me, however, that distance does not affect a country’s claim on sovereignty. The same was mentioned by Hua Zhang, the new spokesman of the Chinese Embassy in Manila. He said: The Philippines asserts that Huangyan Island is closer to its territory, but in fact ‘geographical proximity’ has long been dismissed by the international law and practice as the principle of the solution of territory ownership.

    In response to the Chinese Embassy statement, however, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs countered that the nearness of the Shoal to Luzon was not the basis for claiming sovereignty. The DFA said that historically, the Shoal has been called Bajo de Masinloc: In the case of Bajo de Masinloc, the Philippines has exercised both effective occupation and effective jurisdiction over Bajo de Masinloc since its independence. The name Bajo de Masinloc (translated as “under Masinloc”) itself identifies the shoal as a particular political subdivision of the Philippine province of Zambales, known as Masinloc. The time line I have provided later in this article will show how the Philippines has sought through the years to demonstrate its “effective occupation and effective jurisdiction” over the Shoal.

    How important is Scarborough?

    As early as 1999 when tension erupted around Scarborough, a Chinese international law professor at the University of Central Lancashire named Zou Keyuan wrote a piece entitled Scarborough Reef: A New Flashpoint in Sino-Philippine Relations?

    Here, he noted the importance of Scarborough Shoal:

    Around Scarborough Reef, marine living resources are abundant, and these are traditional fishing targets for Chinese fishermen as well as for Philippine fishermen. In addition, Chinese fishing vessels often sail into Scarborough Reef’s lagoon to collect, for example, shells and sea cucumbers. There is also an international navigational waterway near Scarborough Reef. Approximately 300 ships pass in the vicinity of the reef daily. Japan uses this route to transport 80% of its petroleum from the Middle East, and therefore regards this waterway as its lifeline.

    Can a shooting war break out?

    At the moment, it’s a war of rhetoric. .

    An article in the Global Times of China posted the following advice: Facing this complex dispute, China first needs cool-headedness. A hasty decision may cause more troubles. Addressing the South China Sea issue is set to be a long and arduous process. This is already a geopolitical reality that China faces. China should try to seize more initiative in this process, rather than being led by other regional players.

    But it added: China should be prepared to engage in a small-scale war at sea with the Philippines. Once the war erupts, China must take resolute action and deliver a clear message to the outside world that it does not want a war, but definitely has no fear of it. Nevertheless, such a war cannot put the South China Sea issue to an end. But as I said earlier, Chinese expert Chito Sta. Romana has warned of a “potential for miscalculation”.

    Read the rest of the article here> Changing The Face of The Game!

  2. #2
    China to PH: Don't internationalize dispute

    Agence France-Presse
    Posted at 04/25/2012 5:22 PM | Updated as of 04/25/2012 5:22 PM

    BEIJING - China warned the Philippines on Wednesday not to "internationalize" the two countries' simmering territorial dispute in the South China Sea, as US and Philippine forces staged war games in the area.

    China has been locked in a maritime dispute with the Philippines over the Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea, a body of water considered a potential Asian flashpoint due to the overlapping claims of several nations.

    "Internationalizing this issue will only complicate and magnify the situation," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Liu Weimin told reporters in response to a question about the current situation in the dispute.

    "We do not wish to see the Philippines get other countries involved and get them to take sides over the issue."

    He spoke as US and Filipino soldiers staged an operation in which they stormed the Philippine island of Palawan in a war exercise not far from the real-life maritime standoff.

    For the past two weeks, Chinese patrol vessels have prevented the Philippines from arresting alleged poachers in the disputed waters around the Scarborough Shoal.

    A Philippine military official stressed the exercise was not a veiled threat against China, which has protested US moves to boost its military presence in the region.

    China claims all of the South China Sea as a historic part of its territory, even waters close to the coasts of the Philippines and other Southeast Asian countries.

    The Philippines has complained over the past two years that China has become increasingly aggressive in staking its claim to the waters, with tensions spiking over the Scarborough Shoal standoff. Changing The Face of The Game!

  3. #3
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    Clinton says US won't take sides in sea dispute
    Posted at 05/01/2012 5:34 AM | Updated as of 05/01/2012 11:50 AM

    MANILA, Philippines - U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday afternoon (Tuesday morning in Manila) said the US government opposes the use of force or threats by any party in settling territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

    Speaking at a press conference after the first Philippines-US "2 + 2" talks in Washington, Clinton said that while the US government does not take sides in sovereignty disputes in the South China Sea, as a Pacific power, the US has an interest in ensuring freedom of navigation in the sea lanes in the region.

    In her meeting with Philippine officials, Clinton said the US also reaffirmed its obligations under the US-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT).

    She said both sides expressed concern over the developments in the Korean Peninsula as well as "events in the South China Sea, including recent tensions surrounding the Scarborough Shoal."

    "In this context, the US has been clear and consistent: while we do not take sides on the competing sovereignty claims to land features in the South China Sea, as a Pacific power, we have a national interest in freedom of navigation, the maintenance of peace and stability, respect for international law and the unimpeded lawful commerce across our sea lanes," she said.

    She added the US supports a "collaborative, diplomatic process by all those involved to resolving the various disputes that they encounter."

    "We oppose the threat or use of force by any party to advance its claims, and we remain in close contact with our ally, the Philippines," Clinton said.

    Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, and U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta joined Clinton in the news conference on the U.S.-Philippine Strategic Dialogue at the U.S. State Department.

    US backs rules-based, multi-lateral approach

    Asked whether the Philippines got an "unequivocal assurance" of support from the US, Del Rosario said the US wants the dispute over Scarborough Shoal resolved peacefully and by diplomatic means.

    "In terms of US commitment, I think the US has been very clear that they do not get involved in territorial disputes, but that they are firm in terms of taking a position towards a peaceful settlement of the disputes in the South China Sea, towards a multilateral approach and towards the use of a rules-based regime in accordance with international law, specifically UNCLOS," he said.

    Del Rosario added that the US has expressed that it will "honor their obligations under the Mutual Defense Treaty."

    He also said the Philippines is pursuing a 3-track approach on the Scarborough Shoal dispute:

    a political track, using the ASEAN as a framework via the code of conduct that is being put together;

    a legal track, which means the use of dispute settlement mechanisms. He said the Philippines is hoping to pursue 2 out of 5 mechanisms under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

    a diplomatic track, which includes consultations with China to defuse the tension.

    Gazmin said the US vowed to support the Philippines when it brings its case to international legal bodies. He said the US wants a "rules-based approach" used in resolving issues in the West Philippine Sea.

  4. #4
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    Clinton assures PH, but eyes are on China visit

    By Rodney Jaleco, ABS-CBN North America News Bureau
    Posted at 05/01/2012 9:56 AM | Updated as of 05/01/2012 9:56 AM

    United States and Philippine officials hold a press conference in Washington, D.C., on April 30, 2012. From left, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. / Photo by Bing Cardenas Branigin
    WASHINGTON D.C. - The Philippines received the standard assurances from top American officials and continued to steer clear of the territorial dispute in the South China Sea – at a time when the United States treads a delicate line with China.

    "We do not take sides on the competing sovereignty claims to land features in the South China Sea,” State Secretary Hillary Clinton stressed at the start of a 2x2 meeting with Philippine counterparts led by Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin.

    “As a Pacific power, we have a national interest in freedom of navigation, the maintenance of peace and stability, respect for international law and the unimpeded lawful commerce across our sea lanes," she stressed.

    But tonight she is flying to Beijing for a long-scheduled strategic dialogue with top Chinese leaders.

    The top-level dialogue was originally intended to address economic and trade issues between two of the world’s biggest economies. But the already sensitive backdrop of the meeting has been further complicated after blind dissident Chen Guangcheng reportedly sought asylum at the US Embassy in Beijing.

    With Clinton out of town, the focus is expected to shift to the Pentagon. As she prepared to fly out to Beijing, Panetta was hosting a dinner for Gazmin and his entourage that include Philippine Navy chief Vice Adm. Alexander Pama and Air Force chief Lt. Gen. Lauro dela Cruz.

    At the media briefing earlier today, Panetta had assured that a 2nd Hamilton-class cutter is in the delivery pipeline for the Philippine Navy this year.

    The Philippine Navy is pressing for another possible warship to beef up its presence over the vast disputed areas of the South China Sea – stretching from Scarborough Shoal off Zambales all the way south to Mischief Reef near southern Palawan.

    "We oppose the threat or use of force by any party to advance its claims, and we remain in close contact with our ally, the Philippines," Clinton said, reiterating the US policy laid down at the 2nd PH-US strategic dialogue also held here earlier this year.

    “The US has been very clear that they do not get involved in territorial disputes but that they are firm in terms of taking a position towards a peaceful settlement of the disputes in the South China Sea,” Del Rosario said.

    Some officials tell ABS-CBN News they are satisfied with the support they’ve gotten from the top American officials but added that securing additional US military assistance “is a long process” that is only beginning.

    It was unclear whether Panetta and Gazmin would discuss the possible rotation of about 9,000 Marines that will be displaced by the dismantling of US bases in Okinawa. Most are expected to be redeployed to Australia but the US is reportedly keen to temporarily move at least some of them to the Philippines.

    Panetta seemed to open the door when he talked about expanding cross-training opportunities and heightened exchanges of intelligence information with Filipino troops. The two allies have agreed to build a “minimum credible defense posture” for the Philippines.

    Aside from a possible 3rd Hamilton-class all-weather patrol ship, the Philippines is looking to acquire long-range maritime planes and interceptor jets – although widely reported plans to procure F-16 Falcons appeared to be a long-shot according to some officials.

  5. #5
    The Philippines should put tons of TNT to blast those rocks off the surface so they would not be seen whether high tide or low tide. Now if there's no territory, there would be no claims, tama ba? Then it would fall within the Philippines' 200 mile economic zone.

  6. #6
    Let's buy a nuclear weapon from Pakistan or some other willing state seller, tow it back by boat to our country, then "accidentally" drop it in the middle of Scarborough Shoal where it will detonate and obliterate everything there. We'll simply say "Oops, my bad..." and since everyone believes our Navy is a bunch of fools anyway, they'll just gnash their teeth in frustration but won't do anything about it. No more shoals, nothing but territorial waters, no dispute, no adjudication necessary.

  7. #7
    Filipinos protest at China embassy over 'bullying'

    by Cecil Morella, AFP
    Posted at 05/11/2012 1:38 PM | Updated as of 05/11/2012 1:45 PM

    MANILA - Hundreds of Filipinos demonstrated outside the Chinese embassy in the Philippines on Friday over an escalating territorial row, with the protesters denouncing China's rulers as arrogant bullies.

    Waving national flags, the protesters called for Chinese ships to pull away from a disputed shoal in the South China Sea where both nations have had ships stationed for more than a month in an effort to assert their sovereignty.

    "Our protest is directed at the overbearing actions and stance of the government in Beijing, which behaves like an arrogant overlord, even in the homes of its neighbours," said rally organiser Loida Nicholas Lewis.

    The protesters carried placards that read: "China stop bullying the Philippines", "Make Peace Not War", and "China, Stop Poaching in Philippine Waters".

    The territorial row centres on Scarborough Shoal, a tiny rocky outcrop in the South China Sea about 230 kilometres (140 miles) from the Philippines' main island of Luzon.

    The Philippines says the shoal is part of its territory because it falls within its exclusive economic zone.

    But China claims virtually all of the South China Sea, which is believed to sit atop huge oil and gas reserves, as its historical territory, even waters close to the coasts of other Asian countries.

    The nearest major Chinese landmass to Scarborough Shoal is 1,200 kilometres northwest of the shoal, according to Filipino navy maps.

    Protesters at Friday's rally said China's actions over Scarborough Shoal should send a signal to other Asian countries about their giant neighbour.

    "We just want the international community to understand that if, today, they can do it to the Philippines, they can also bully the other claimants too," said one of the co-organisers of the rally, Jackson Gan.

    Taiwan, Brunei, Vietnam and Malaysia also claim parts of the South China Sea.

    The stand-off began on April 8 when Philippine authorities detected eight Chinese fishing boats at the shoal. Philippine efforts to arrest the fishermen were thwarted when two Chinese surveillance vessels arrived at the scene.

    Both sides have continued to maintain ships at the shoal, and Chinese authorities have reacted with increasing fury as the Philippines has refused to back down against its much stronger neighbour.

    Editorials in newspapers controlled by the ruling Communist Party have repeatedly warned that China is prepared to go to war against the Philippines to win the stand-off.

    The rival claims have for decades made the waters one of Asia's potential military flashpoints.

    More than 70 Vietnamese sailors were killed in 1988 when China and Vietnam battled for control of the Spratly Islands, an archipelago south of Scarborough Shoal.

    Organisers of the protest in Manila said similar rallies were planned at other Chinese embassies around the world on Friday.

    Chinese authorities this week ordered tour operators to suspend trips to the Philippines, in what Filipinos have widely interpreted as a form of economic blackmail.

    Ahead of the demonstration China's embassy in Manila advised Chinese citizens in the Philippines to stay indoors, warning their safety was at risk particularly during Friday's protest.

    But organisers had insisted the protest would be peaceful. Nearly an hour into the protest, at which about 300 people had gathered, there were no signs of violence. Changing The Face of The Game!

  8. #8
    Five PLA vessels approaching the Philippines: Duowei
    Staff Reporter 2012-05-16 08:47 (GMT+

    The Type-052B destroyer Wuhan is in the South China Sea with three other PLA vessels, ostensibly on a training mission. (Internet photo)

    Five PLA vessels are approaching the waters of the Philippines, according to Duowei News, a news outlet operated by overseas Chinese.

    The five ships reportedly include two Type-052B destroyers, two Type-054A frigates and one Type-071 amphibious transport vessel. A Chinese naval analyst has said that the ships are on a training mission but could be sent to support the Chinese fishery administration ships around Scarborough Shoal if the standoff between China and the Philippines over the disputed South China Sea atoll escalates.

    Though Manila is trying to purchase more advanced weaponry from the US to strengthen its armed forces, a report from US military analyst Richard W Fisher says the Chinese navy would have little difficulty preventing Philippine ships from approaching Scarborough Shoal, about 200 kilometers from the western coast of Luzon.

    With a displacement of just 3,200 tons, the Hamilton-class cutters of the Philippine navy are no match for the four Chinese destroyers and frigates, which together would carry about 48 C-802/803 anti-ship missiles. The Philippines has none.

    Flying only a handful of Cold War-era F-5A and F-5B fighters, the Philippine air force also poses little threat to the Chinese fleet. Manila is looking to purchase secondhand F-16 fighters from the United States over the next two years which it would use for sea patrol missions. Such missions are currently being carried out by OV-10 light attack and observation aircraft. Because of the plane's slow speed, two OV-10s were intercepted by fighters from the PLA Air Force in early 2011.

    The standoff at Scarborough Shoal began on April 10 when two Chinese fishery administration ships were deployed to prevent the Philippine navy from arresting and detaining Chinese fishermen who had been apprehended in the area claimed by the two sides. Changing The Face of The Game!

  9. #9
    OT but something good to read

    In a war with China, will the US fight on the side of the Philippines?

    The US will not abandon the Philippines
    No one has an exclusive on opportunity. When the sun rises, it rises for everyone. - Chinese Proverbs

  10. #10
    I believe its high time for pinoys to get involve and know what's happening in wps instead of going gaga over lady gaga, jessica sanchez and corona. we might wake up one day with red flag (with 5 yellow stars) raised in luneta.
    No one has an exclusive on opportunity. When the sun rises, it rises for everyone. - Chinese Proverbs

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