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Thread: The Scarborough Standoff

  1. #11
    don't you think that military service/training should be made mandatory to all college students?
    just incase... the country will be needing warm bodies to pull the trigger.
    Last edited by animo; 05-25-2012 at 10:57 AM.
    No one has an exclusive on opportunity. When the sun rises, it rises for everyone. - Chinese Proverbs

  2. #12
    China ships stay in Panatag Shoal
    No Beijing commitment to withdraw vessels
    By Jerry Esplanada
    Philippine Daily Inquirer
    12:40 am | Tuesday, June 19th, 2012
    share501 475
    RAISING THE FLAG A member of China’s ocean expedition team raises the Chinese flag while another holds a survey rod on Scarborough Shoal, which China refers to as Huangyan Island. The Philippines calls the shoal some 370 kilometers west of Zambales Panatag. Chinese Embassy website
    China has no immediate plans of pulling out its vessels at Scarborough Shoal in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), the Chinese Embassy said Monday.
    In a text message to the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Zhang Hua, spokesperson and deputy chief of the political section of the Chinese Embassy, said Beijing had not expressed any intention of withdrawing its service ships from Scarborough Shoal, which both China and the Philippines claim.
    Contrary to Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario’s statement to reporters on Friday, China did not commit to withdraw its seven vessels from the shoal.
    “There is no such commitment from China,” Zhang said.
    In Beijing, Hong Mei, spokesperson for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, wondered “where the so-called commitment the Philippine side mentioned on China’s withdrawal of vessels came from.”
    Hong said China hoped “the Philippine side can restrain their words and behavior and do workings conducive to the development of the bilateral relations” between the two countries.
    China, Hong said, “will continue to maintain administration and vigilance” over Scarborough Shoal, which Beijing refers to as Huangyan Island. Manila calls it Panatag Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc.
    But more than 20 Chinese fishing boats stationed at the shoal’s lagoon are withdrawing because of bad weather, according to an advisory issued by the salvage and rescue unit of China’s Ministry of Transport on Sunday.
    Raul Hernandez, spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), said Monday night that China’s announcement of the pullout was “consistent with our agreement with the Chinese government on the withdrawal of all vessels from the shoal’s lagoon to defuse tensions” in the area.
    Two Philippine vessels had been facing off with seven Chinese government vessels at the shoal since April 10 after Philippine authorities caught Chinese fishermen poaching for sharks and collecting rare clams and corals in the area.
    Both asserting sovereignty over the shoal, the two countries had refused to budge. The shoal is within the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines, which has proposed to bring the dispute to the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea for settlement.
    China, which claims the entire West Philippine Sea, has refused and tried to apply an economic squeeze to force the Philippines to yield. It has suspended Chinese tours to the Philippines and tightened inspection rules for fruit imports from the Philippines.
    Though indirectly, the United States has weighed in, announcing two weeks ago details of a new military strategy that would see 60 percent of US naval assets moving to the Asia-Pacific region before the end of the decade, and announcing assistance for the modernization of the Philippine military.
    President Benigno Aquino traveled to Washington last week and had discussions with US President Barack Obama, who stressed the importance of the US-Philippine Mutual Defense Treaty and renewed US pledges of helping the Philippines update its defenses.
    Bad weather
    But on Friday night, President Aquino, citing bad weather, ordered home a Philippine Coast Guard vessel and a Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources survey ship from Scarborough Shoal.
    At the time, Typhoon “Butchoy” was approaching the Philippines from the Pacific Ocean and a low-pressure system over Palawan province was combining with its winds to create squalls dangerous to shipping in the West Philippine Sea.
    Chinese commitment
    Asked by reporters on Friday if China was withdrawing its vessels, Del Rosario said, “We are waiting for them to comply with their commitment.”
    It was understood that China and the Philippines had agreed to break a two-month standoff at Scarborough Shoal to save the crew of their vessels from unnecessary exposure to danger in stormy seas.
    As of Friday, China had seven government ships outside the lagoon and 20-26 fishing boats in the lagoon, according to the DFA.
    On Sunday, Malacañang, through deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte, said, citing Del Rosario’s statement about a Chinese commitment, the Philippines was waiting for China to recall its vessels from the shoal.
    Eighth vessel
    But instead of pulling out its ships from the area, the Chinese government is sending another vessel, the “Nanhaijiu 115,” to the shoal, ostensibly to assist the Chinese fishing boats in making a run for shelter amid stormy weather.
    In its advisory, the Chinese transport ministry cited “inclement weather and strong tides” at Scarborough Shoal as the reason for withdrawing the fishing boats.
    The agency also said it was deploying the Nanhaijiu 115 to the shoal to “help Chinese fishermen and fishing boats pull out safely for shelter” in undisclosed locations.
    The deployment of the Nanhaijiu 115 brought to eight the number of Chinese government vessels stationed at the shoal.
    PH move welcomed
    On Sunday, China welcomed President Aquino’s order pulling out the two Philippine vessels from the shoal and expressed hope it would calm tensions in the area.
    A statement on the Chinese Embassy’s website on Monday said “the Chinese public service ships have continued to keep close watch over Scarborough Shoal waters to provide administrative and other services to Chinese fishing boats in accordance with China’s laws, so as to ensure Chinese fishermen a good environment for operations in their traditional fishing grounds.”
    The continued presence of the Chinese ships in the area was also meant to “prevent further provocation by the Philippines,” it also said.
    Zhang told the Inquirer on Sunday that “the Chinese side has been urging the Philippine side to take measures to deescalate the situation” at the shoal.
    That meant China wanted the Philippines to withdraw its vessels from the area. The vessels were ordered home on Friday but Del Rosario said, “When the weather improves, a reevaluation will be made.”
    Last week, both the Philippines and China repositioned their ships posted at the shoal, easing tensions that had been building up since the standoff began in April.
    Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda called the coordinated pullback a “step in the right direction.”
    Weakened PH claim
    But Bayan Muna Representative Neri Colmenares is worried that the premature departure of the Philippine vessels may have weakened the country’s claim of sovereignty over that part of the West Philippine Sea.
    Colmenares said Monday that China had shown no sign of reciprocating. “The President should immediately replace the two boats that left the [shoal],” Colmenares said. “The government only weakened its claim of effective control and jurisdiction if we have no naval presence in our waters.”
    The Department of National Defense said on Sunday that the withdrawal of the two Philippine vessels would not affect the country’s claim. There are many other ways of monitoring the area, according to the department’s spokesperson Peter Galvez.
    Del Rosario had told the Inquirer that despite an easing of tensions between Manila and Beijing, the Philippines would press its plan to bring the dispute to the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea. With reports from Gil C. Cabacungan and AFP Changing The Face of The Game!

  3. #13
    Chinese Navy admiral targets Philippine ships

    by Jojo Malig,
    Posted at 06/23/2012 10:15 PM | Updated as of 06/23/2012 10:15 PM

    MANILA, Philippines - Chinese troops should go after Philippine ships and fishermen who go near the disputed Scarborough shoal, a Chinese navy official said.

    Rear Admiral Yin Zhuo, director of the People's Liberation Army Navy’s (PLAN) Information Expert Committee, said this should be done to “Filipino vessels that hang around in the lagoon and don’t leave," according to state-owned news agency China News Service (CNS).

    Yin said Chinese naval troops should board and search Philippine government ships and private fishing vessels.

    He said this is already being done by the Philippines on Chinese fishing ships.

    Yin said the "Philippines has not yet returned 24 Chinese fishing boats it is holding," referring to Chinese boats intercepted in Philippine territory in October last year.

    Yin, who is described by the CNS as a military expert, said Chinese troops "must try to maintain restraint, not force, not hurt people," when going after Philippine ships found in waters near or at Scarborough shoal.

    He said Chinese government ships should conduct more regular patrols in the waters off Scarborough to esnure the safety of Chinese fishing boats.

    Yin told Communist Party publication the People’s Daily on Thursday that China's navy will not hesitate to use deadly force against its enemies. *

    “Our navy has the absolute ability and the absolute confidence to use arms to defend our country’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and maritime rights. We’re just waiting for the order,” he said.

    President Benigno Aquino said earlier in the week that the Philippines may redeploy ships to the shoal to counter the presence of foreign vessels.

    Philippine ships were forced to pull out from the area last weekend due to bad weather.
    "If there is a presence in our territorial waters, then we will redeploy. But if there is no other presence of other vessels that might impinge on our sovereignty, there is no need to deploy and they can go back to their normal routine of safeguarding -- the Coast Guard for instance -- our coastlines from… [the] wet season," Aquino told reporters.
    He said the decision to redeploy will be based on China's moves to occupy the area.

    Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said Saturday that several Chinese ships have been seen again around Scarborough shoal.

    Gazmin, in a text message to ANC, said the Chinese vessels were spotted by a Philippine Air Force plane that was deployed to conduct a reconnaissance mission over the disputed area.

    He did not say how many Chinese ships are now at Scarborough.

    Yin blasts Aquino, 'US-Philippine plan'

    Yin, during a discussion with Chinese netizens on the state-owned People's Daily website, also claimed that Aquino's plan to send ships anew to Scarborough shoal is part of a scheme between Manila and Washington to usher in US military troops' return to Asia.

    He said the US and the Philippines -- which are bound by a mutual defense treaty -- want to use Scarborough shoal as a flashpoint to break China's friendship with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

    Yin also accused Aquino of trying to "consolidate his regime" by pleasing military officials.

    He said Aquino inherited his mother's bad relationship with the Philippine military, which the country's current president now wants to solve.

    The Chinese military official also said Aquino's tough stand on Scarborough "attacks domestic anti-American and pro-Arroyo forces in the Philippines."

    It is not known how much influence Yin wields in the PLA.

    His statements mirror an earlier call by another hardliner, PLA Major General Luo Yuan, who wants China to launch "decisive action" at Scarborough Shoal to reinforce Beijing's claim on the territory, which is located within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone.

    While their comments do not represent official policy and the PLA is only serving on the beck and call of China's Communist Party, officers like Yin and Luo have been given some leeway to strike a tougher tone in their comments, according to foreign analysts.

    In 2010, Chinese President Hu Jintao admonished the military for letting officers speak on sensitive issues. Changing The Face of The Game!

  4. #14
    Chinese ships seen anew at Scarborough
    Posted at 06/23/2012 6:10 PM | Updated as of 06/24/2012 5:15 PM

    MANILA, Philippines - Several Chinese ships have been seen again around Scarborough shoal, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said Saturday.

    Gazmin, in a text message to ANC, said the Chinese vessels were spotted by a Philippine Air Force plane that was deployed to conduct a reconnaissance mission over the disputed area.

    He did not say how many Chinese ships are now at Scarborough.

    President Benigno Aquino earlier said the government will redeploy ships to the shoal to counter the presence of foreign vessels.

    Philippine ships were forced to pull out from the area last weekend due to bad weather.
    "If there is a presence in our territorial waters, then we will redeploy. But if there is no other presence of other vessels that might impinge on our sovereignty, there is no need to deploy and they can go back to their normal routine of safeguarding-the Coast Guard for instance-our coastlines from… [the] wet season," Aquino told reporters.
    "And endpoint nito, is there a need for our vessels to be there? That will be determined by the overfly to determine if there are things that we should be guarding. If there are none, we can go. We don't have to go back," he added.
    President Aquino said it is "physically impossible" for the Philippines to permanently station vessels in the area.

    "How do you position somebody 'pag very rough seas?" he said.
    He said he would await the data that would come from the Air Force reconnaissance mission before deciding whether Philippine vessels would be sent back.

    "The guidelines are very, very clear. 'Pag meron pang mag vessels doon na not ours, in our waters, we send back our ships… When you say reevaluate, dumating, nag-overfly ang ating aircraft, may nakita, wala. Pag walang nakita, anong need para ipadala doon?" he said. - reports from ANC and Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News Changing The Face of The Game!

  5. #15

    Enrile: US deployment of spy planes part of defense treaty

    By Fat Reyes

    8:29 am | Thursday, July 5th, 2012

    MANILA, Philippines — Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said that Malacanang’s plans to request the US to deploy spy planes over the West Philippine Sea should be seen as part of its responsibility to help the Philippines.

    “The Americans are obligated under the mutual defense treaty to help us. That is the purpose of the treaty, that’s a security treaty and it is the obligation of the Philippines to help America and in the reverse it is the obligation of America to help the Philippines,” Enrile said in an interview with reporters late Wednesday at the reception for Queen Sofia held at Spanish Ambassador Jorge Domecq’s residence in Makati City.

    The reception for the Queen had about 500 delegates from Spain in attendance.

    On Monday, President Benigno Aquino III said that he may ask the US to deploy spy planes over the West Philippine Sea to help monitor the disputed waters.

    Enrile said the move should not be seen by China as escalating tensions in the area, saying they would “portray themselves as an aggressive predatory power” if they do so.

    “I don’t think China will fire a bullet. It would be most foolish for them to do that,” said Enrile.

    “They will alienate the public opinion of the world. They will portray themselves as an aggressive predatory power that would threaten the peace of Southeast-Asia and maybe of Asia given their size,” he added.

    Enrile said that the country should continue to solve the dispute through diplomatic means and should press China to agree to bring the dispute issue to a third party, the International Court of Justice.

    Enrile said that China’s refusal to do so showed that their position was “legally weak.”

    Enrile also pushed for a Charter Change to improve military spending in the national budget, saying restrictions prioritizing education should be removed during times of threats to national security.

    “I am in favor of prioritizing education but we must remove that restriction and leave it to Congress to determine at a given time especially during peaceful periods in our history to allocate more for education but in case of need when there is a threat to the national security of the country then congress should be able to provide the necessary funding above the amount allocated for education because of necessity,” Enrile said.

  6. #16

    Philippines protests China’s moving in on Macclesfield Bank

    By Jerry E. Esplanada, Norman Bordadora

    Philippine Daily Inquirer

    1:42 am | Friday, July 6th, 2012

    The Philippines on Wednesday protested China’s move placing virtually the entire West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), including the Philippine territory of Macclesfield Bank and its surrounding waters, under the jurisdiction of a newly created city.

    Manila’s protest came as the latest sour turn in relations between the Philippines and China, which have yet to find a temporary solution to their dispute over Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal), a resource-rich reef in the West Philippine Sea just west of Zambales province.

    Also on Thursday, President Aquino urged the Chinese authorities to “balance [their] statements with the truth” in response to their accusation that he was trying to stir tension in the West Philippine Sea by asking for US help in monitoring the disputed waters.

    Aquino convened his Cabinet—the second time in a week under an administration that rarely holds full Cabinet meetings—to discuss territorial issues with China and hear views on dealing with the country’s increasingly aggressive neighbor.

    Strongest statement

    The President issued his strongest statement yet since he threatened last week to send government vessels back to Panatag Shoal unless China called its ships and fishing boats home.

    “It’s not clear with me what the provocative statements that have been said to have come from Philippine officials, but we know there are many things being said from the other side,” Aquino told reporters in Malacañang.

    “They should read what has been written from their end and, with all due respect, perhaps they should balance what they are saying with the truth,” he said.

    “It has been almost three weeks since our Coast Guard vessel pulled out of [Panatag Shoal]. If [China’s] vessels … have also gone home, there’s already no more issue,” the President said. “So who could be the one prolonging this [dispute over] Panatag Shoal?”

    Asked when he would order government vessels back to Panatag Shoal, Aquino said, “That will be, of course, dependent on the weather.”

    Macclesfield Bank is a huge underwater group of reefs and shoals located east of the Paracel Islands, southwest of the Pratas Islands and north of the Spratly Islands in the center of the West Philippine Sea.

    The Philippines claims Macclesfield Bank and administers it through the provincial government of Zambales. It is one of the largest atolls in the world, covering an area of 6,500 square kilometers, and is surrounded by excellent fishing waters.

    Policy of deescalation

    China’s Ministry of Civil Affairs said in June that putting Macclesfield Bank, the Paracels and the Spratlys under Sansha would “further strengthen China’s administration and development” of the three island groups.

    There was no immediate comment from the Chinese Embassy in Manila on the Philippines’ Macclesfield protest.

    The Philippines on June 15 stepped back from a two-month maritime standoff with China at the shoal and had since imposed a policy of deescalation.

    But on Monday, President Aquino said the government might ask the United States to deploy spy planes over the West Philippine Sea to help monitor the disputed waters.

    And on Wednesday, after weeks of inaction, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) protested China’s latest move that impinged on Philippine sovereignty over its parts of the West Philippine Sea.

    Diplomatic protest

    In a statement issued Thursday, the DFA said it summoned Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Ma Keqing on Wednesday and handed her a note protesting China’s recent declaration that placed Macclesfield Bank under the prefectural oversight of newly established Sansha City.

    In June, China’s State Council declared Macclesfield Bank, Paracel Islands and Spratly Islands—known in Chinese as Zhongsha Islands, Xisha Islands and Nansha Islands—parts of Sansha City, to tighten its grip on contested parts of the West Philippine Sea amid territorial disputes with the Philippines and Vietnam.

    The DFA said the extent of Sansha’s jurisdiction “violates Philippine sovereignty over the Kalayaan Group of Islands and Bajo de Masinloc (Scarborough Shoal).”

    China’s move also “infringes on Philippine sovereign rights over the waters and the continental shelf of the West Philippine Sea,” the DFA said.

    The expansive jurisdiction of Sansha, the DFA said, “contradicts the spirit of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea” between China and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).” The Asean and China signed the nonaggression accord in 2002.

    The DFA reiterated that the Kalayaan Group and the Bajo de Masinloc, which Manila also calls Panatag Shoal, and their surrounding waters “form an internal part of Philippine territory and maritime jurisdiction.”

    Help from treaty ally

    On asking the United States for spy plane overflights, Aquino said the Philippines was well within its right to ask an ally for assistance in monitoring its own territory.

    “America is a treaty ally. We have a lack. They have a capability,” Aquino said. “If ever our capability would fall short, I believe we can approach them to add to our situational awareness, especially in the West Philippine Sea.”

    Aquino said, however, that asking for US help in monitoring is just an option, correcting a report that seemed to indicate permission has been given for overflights.

    The meeting on the territorial dispute with China began at about 1:30 p.m.

    Talks, not ships

    Among those seen going into the meeting were Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Senator Antonio Trillanes IV. Enrile is a former secretary of national defense, while Trillanes is a former Navy officer.

    As the Cabinet prepared for the discussions, Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo urged Malacañang to deescalate the growing tensions with China over Panatag Shoal.

    Pabillo said the government should continue talking to the Chinese instead of sending back ships to the shoal.

    “We can achieve [peace] through dialogue,” Pabillo said. “Don’t aggravate the situation [by sending the ships back]. Hold dialogues.”

    Situation stable
    On Tuesday, Liu Weimin, a spokesperson for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told a press briefing in Beijing that the situation in the West Philippine Sea was stable with no Philippine vessels at Panatag Shoal.

    But China, the Chinese Embassy in Manila quoted Liu as saying, is “willing to continue to hold dialogues and consultations” with the Philippines on their dispute over Panatag Shoal.—With reports from Philip C. Tubeza and AP

  7. #17
    In a disputed reef, Philippines sees face of Chinese domination

    Scarborough Shoal, a mecca for fishermen, is claimed by both countries, and the fight over it and other territory in the South China Sea threatens to entangle the U.S.

    By Barbara Demick, Los Angeles Times

    May 14, 2013, 6:43 p.m.

    MASINLOC, Philippines — The fishermen were sailing the azure waters off the Philippine coast when Richard Caneda saw the morning sunlight glinting off a vessel "bigger than the biggest ship in the Philippine navy."

    Caneda could see a red Chinese flag. The words "Chinese Maritime Surveillance" were written on the ship's side.

    The ship came close enough that Caneda could see crew members on deck making hand gestures as though to shoo away a fly. Caneda, who had moved from the fishing boat to a tiny skiff to haul in nets left out overnight, soon saw a large gun mounted on the ship's deck pivoting directly toward him. A helicopter whirred overhead.

    The fishermen fled, leaving their nets and catch behind.

    "We were scared. We were angry. We were frustrated. That is our livelihood," Caneda, 34, a now-unemployed father of three who lives in a shantytown in Masinloc, said of the November encounter.

    It happened near the reef known as Scarborough Shoal, 130 miles off the coast of the Philippines' largest island, Luzon, and barely 200 miles from Manila, the Philippine capital. Claimed by both China and the Philippines, the mostly underwater reef has come to represent the dangers of Chinese expansionism.

    "Scarborough today — tomorrow the world," read banners at an anti-China demonstration last year in Manila.

    In its quest to become a maritime power and to tap potential undersea oil and gas reserves, China is asserting sovereignty over various islands, rocks and reefs dangerously close to the shores of Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines.

    Beijing and Taipei, Taiwan, condemned the Philippines on Friday for the shooting death of an unarmed 65-year-old Taiwanese fisherman in the disputed waters of the South China Sea. Philippine authorities said a coast guard ship fired on the Taiwanese vessel a day earlier in an area to the north of Luzon, but only in an attempt to disable the engine to prevent being rammed.

    On Wednesday, the Philippines issued an official apology in a response to a midnight deadline set by Taiwan, which had threatened economic retaliation.

    Along with Japan's Senkaku islands (known as Diaoyu to the Chinese), the Scarborough Shoal is the area's most hotly contested territory, the scene of dozens of too-close calls during the last year.

    For more than a year, Chinese ships have patrolled Scarborough Shoal, chasing away Philippine fisherman and maintaining what Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario calls "a de facto occupation."

    Despite pledges of neutrality from Washington, the dispute could easily entangle the United States, resurrecting Cold War alliances and putting to the test the Obama administration's so-called pivot toward Asia.

    For most of the 20th century, the U.S. Navy had its largest overseas base at nearby Subic Bay in the Philippines, and the Navy used to conduct firing exercises at Scarborough Shoal. Feeling that the Americans had worn out their welcome, Manila asked the Navy to leave in 1992. But last year, a few U.S. vessels were readmitted on a rotating basis, and Filipinos increasingly are expressing regret about the American departure.

    "If the Americans were still at Subic Bay, the Chinese wouldn't dare do this to us," Caneda said.

    In January, the Philippines asked a United Nations tribunal to determine the status of the reef. But the process could take years, and China has indicated it will not abide by the decision.

    In the meantime, the Philippines finds itself outgunned, outmaneuvered and outspent. The Chinese have run a rope across the mouth of a lagoon inside the triangular-shaped shoal, where Filipinos have fished for generations, and in recent weeks have declared a 15-mile fishing ban around the reef.

    The dispute has devastated the fragile economy of the fishing communities in coastal Luzon. The shoal used to attract so many fishing boats that at night with their lights shining, it looked like an illuminated city at sea.

    Fishermen say the shoal was where they went to get the biggest and best fish: Spanish mackerel, Pacific cod, tuna and lapu lapu, a giant grouper. A 25-man ship could bring back $17,000 worth of fish in a single trip.

    "The income from fishing is cut in half," said Julius Sumaling, a fishing boat captain who says it's not worth the gas anymore to go out with his ship, the San Pedro, now docked south of Masinloc, a town of 51,000 on the coast.

    Joseph Morate, who sells squid at the main market in Masinloc, said he took his 15-year-old daughter out of school because he could no longer afford the $4 a day in transportation costs and needed her to baby-sit younger children.

    "All I have to sell is squid because the Chinese are chasing us away from the quality fish," Morate said.

    At the main market, many of the white tile tables where fish used to be displayed are now mostly empty or used by vendors selling meat.

    Luz Farones Macario, whose husband runs one of the biggest fishing fleets in Masinloc, with three large boats, now sells frozen chicken legs, ham and sausage.

    "All of these aisles were full of fish. Now, no more," she said. "Why are the Chinese being so selfish when there is so much fish in the sea?"

    According to Filipinos, the generations of fishing at the shoal were interrupted only when the reef was used as a firing range. It is more than 500 miles from the southern tip of China's southernmost island, Hainan.

    Beijing, however, has produced records showing that the territory was explored and charted as far back as 1279 by the 13th century astronomer Guo Shoujing, who surveyed the region for the emperor Kublai Khan.

    China has produced a U-shaped map that gives it sovereignty over almost all the South China Sea up to the borders of Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia.

    Shen Dingli, an international relations expert at Shanghai's Fudan University, says the Philippines did not actively assert its claim to the shoal until 1992.

    "For a long time, China has claimed all rocks in the entire South China Sea," Shen said, speaking at an international conference last week in Seoul. "Prior to 1992, the Philippines made no official disagreement, so we view it as a virtual admission of China's claim."

    The Chinese have also denied using force, saying the ships it dispatches belong only to China Marine Surveillance and the Fisheries Law Enforcement Command, civilian agencies that are not supposed to carry weapons. Photographs in Chinese state media, however, clearly show some of the marine surveillance ships with guns mounted on their decks.

    Experts in maritime law say part of the issue is that China is a much older country than its neighbors, with a more meticulous system of record-keeping.

    "The Philippines didn't even have a central government until Spanish colonial times," said Carlyle Thayer, professor emeritus at the Australian Defense Force Academy. "The local Malay people didn't keep records the way the Chinese did.

    "But the fact that you have records doesn't extinguish the rights of the native people," Thayer said.

    The name Scarborough comes from a boat that was shipwrecked there in 1784. Filipinos also call it the Bajo de Masinloc — a name that dates to Spanish colonial times — while the Chinese have named it Huangyan, or "Yellow Rock."

    By many accounts, the reef was a favorite fishing spot for numerous groups for years, and relations were friendly enough that fishermen often bartered goods — Chinese liquor and instant noodles for Philippine mangoes and papaya.

    The current spat dates to April 11, 2012, when Chinese fishermen were accused of poaching giant clams and sharks, protected species. The Philippines sent a naval ship to arrest the Chinese fishermen, who in turn radioed for help from China Marine Surveillance.

    After a two-month standoff, a deal was brokered by the United States for both sides to withdraw from the shoal.

    The Chinese never left.

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