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  1. #1

    Tension at the Spratlys

    China tries to tighten grip on Spratlys

    by Jojo Malig, ABS-CBNnews.com
    Posted at 06/21/2012 9:11 PM | Updated as of 06/21/2012 9:23 PM


    MANILA, Philippines - China has flexed its political muscles in the West Philippine Sea by raising the administrative status of the Spratlys and other disputed islets, reefs, and shoals in the West Philippine Sea from county-level to prefectural-level, according to Chinese state media Thursday.

    China's State Council gave the green light for the setting up of a new prefectural-level city of Sansha (City of Three Sands) to govern the Nansha (Spratlys), Xisha (Paracels), and Zhongsha (Macclesfield bank) islands, state news agency Xinhua reported.

    The city's government seat will be based on Yongxing Island in the Paracels, the Chinese Ministry of Civil Affairs said.

    The move will help to improve China's "administrative management on Xisha, Zhongsha and Nansha islands and their future development," a ministry spokesperson said.

    "It is also conducive to protecting the oceanic environment of the South China Sea," the spokesperson added.

    The Spratly Islands comprises more than 750 reefs, islets, atolls, cays, and islands in the West Philippine Sea.

    The Spratlys, the Paracels, Macclesfield bank are being claimed in whole or in part by the Philippines, Vietnam, China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei.

    The Philippines' Department of Foreign Affairs has yet to comment the latest development in its territorial dispute with Beijing.

    China frowns at PNoy, PAF fly-by

    Meanwhile, the Chinese Foreign Ministry on Thursday criticized President Benigno Aquino for his statement that Philippine Air Force planes will soon fly over Spartlys to inspect the area.

    Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Aquino should "stop making remarks that will influence public opinion," according to Xinhua.

    Hong blamed the Philippines for allegedly causing the tension to erupt over Scarborough shoal, which Beijing calls as Huangyan Island.

    "China hopes the Philippine side will do more to help the development of bilateral ties and refrain from stirring public opinion, so as to safeguard the recovery of bilateral ties," Hong said, as quoted by Xinhua.
    www.Gameface.ph: Changing The Face of The Game!

  2. #2
    China faces hostility on claim to Spratlys

    Beijing’s smile has faded in region

    Associated Press

    12:08 am | Monday, November 26th, 2012

    BEIJING—China is finding the once-friendly ground of Southeast Asia bumpy going, with anger against Chinese claims to disputed islands, once reliable ally Burma (Myanmar) flirting with democracy and renewed American attention to the region.

    The changing terrain for Beijing was on view last week at a conclave of East Asian nations in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

    Wen Jiabao, China’s lame-duck premier who usually exudes a mild, grandfatherly air, got into a sharp exchange over the contested West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) islands.

    The leaders of the Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam reacted furiously when host Cambodia, an ally of China, suggested that all sides agreed not to bring outside parties into the dispute—a reference to the United States.

    President Aquino of the Philippines publicly rebuked Cambodian Premier Hun Sen, saying Association of Southeast Asian (Asean) leaders had no agreement not to “internationalize” the West Philippine Sea disputes with China.

    “The Asean route is not the only route for us,” Mr. Aquino said, indicating that the Philippines would pursue a resolution of its dispute with China in accordance with international law. “As a sovereign state, it is our right to defend our national interest,” he said.

    US President Barack Obama, buoyed by the first visit ever by an American leader to Burma, projected an image of a confident, friendly America, calling for a reduction in tensions and seemingly taking no sides.

    Beijing is struggling to find its feet as its own power grows, but the United States refuses to cede influence in the region, emboldening other countries not to fall in with the Chinese line.

    “The robust US presence and relatively disciplined and quiet diplomacy looked strong relative to China’s heavy-handed pressure,” Ernest Bower, chair for Southeast Asian studies at the Council for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, wrote in a commentary on Thursday.

    It’s a reversal over the treatment Beijing enjoyed much of the past decade as it wooed Southeast Asia with soaring trade and investment and the lure of the huge Chinese market.

    Looking to further those links, Wen held discussions on expanding a free trade agreement to increase China’s imports from Southeast Asia.

    China’s economic “pull remains, but the smile has faded,” said Aaron Friedberg, professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton University.

    Getting Southeast Asian diplomacy right matters to Beijing. It’s an area where China historically exercised great sway. The 10 countries of the Asean are home to a market of 600 million people and straddle vital shipping lanes and seas rich in fish, oil, gas and other minerals.

    Assertive claims

    Beijing’s influence began foundering in 2010 when its more assertive claims to islands in parts of the South China Sea, called West Philippine Sea and East Sea, touched off anxieties among the Philippines and Vietnam, who, along with Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan, also claim the islands in whole or in part.

    The fracas provided an opening for the United States, which as it wound down involvement in Iraq was reexamining the challenge posed by China. The US “pivot” to Asia brought renewed diplomatic attention to the region and promises of more military resources.

    Map on passports

    Still, the friction has only increased. Beijing has become more aggressive in patrolling around the disputed islands, leading to a face-off last summer with the Philippines over Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal) in the West Philippine Sea. It is sparring farther afield over other islands with Japan, heightening worries about an expansionist China.

    Beijing also started issuing new passports featuring a map that shows the entire South China Sea as Chinese territory. It was a strategy that seemed to force China’s rivals for territory in the sea to recognize its claims. Their stamps on the passports would indicate their recognition of China’s claims that they were disputing.

    The Philippines and Vietnam protested the strategy. In the Philippine protest note to China, Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario called the strategy an “excessive declaration of maritime space in violation of international law.” Vietnam’s foreign ministry demanded that China “reverse” the passports’ “incorrect content.”

    The new China map on the passports also showed disputed territory on the border with India. Indian External Affairs Minister Salman Khursid on Saturday said that the Chinese passport map showing India’s Arunachal Prades state and the Himalayan region of Aksai Chin as part of China was “unacceptable.”

    India retaliated by starting to issue visas to Chinese citizens with a map of India that includes all territories claimed by New Delhi.

    India says China controls 41,440 square kilometers of its territory in Aksai Chin in Kashmir, while China claims that the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, which shares a 1,050-kilometer border with the Chinese-run region of Tibet, is rightfully Chinese territory.

    India and China fought a brief border war in 1962, and large stretches of the India-China border are still undemarcated.

    Asean-China Summit

    The tensions bubbled to the fore at last week’s summit of Southeast Asian leaders with the Chinese leadership in Phnom Penh attended by Obama.

    President Aquino raised the Panatag Shoal dispute, prompting Wen to state that the islets in the West Philippine Sea have been “Chinese territory since ancient times and no sovereignty dispute exists.”

    China’s actions to assert its sovereignty were wholly “appropriate and necessary,” Wen told the closed-door meeting, according to Vice Foreign Minister Fu Ying.

    Wen’s stern statement was “destructive and dangerous,” wrote CSIS’s Bower. “This is very uncertain ground, and uncertainty means the emergency of an inherent instability in the region that undermines a solid foundation for regional growth.”

    Chinese government-backed experts conceded a failure in execution. “Somehow, the issue was not handled very well in the meeting,” said Zhao Gancheng, director of the Center for Southeast Asia at the Shanghai Institute for Foreign Studies.

    Economic realities could still work in China’s favor, experts say. Chinese imports from the region grew 29 percent last year to $146 billion, and with its economy expected to overtake America’s as the world’s largest in coming years, China will only grow in importance as a source of overseas investment.

    The very fact that China has refused to back off—despite provoking a backlash that could hurt its long-term interests—speaks to Beijing’s belief that its economic pull will ultimately convince its Asean neighbors that their future lies with China, not with the United States, said Princeton’s Friedberg.

    “The big question, I think, is whether the Asean states believe that the United States actually has the resolve and the resources to follow through on the commitments that have been made in recent years. If they begin to doubt this they will have to do more to appease Beijing,” Friedberg said.

  3. #3
    China’s role in Southeast Asia questioned

    By Christopher Bodeen

    Associated Press

    1:40 pm | Sunday, November 25th, 2012

    BEIJING – China is finding the once friendly ground of Southeast Asia bumpy going, with anger against Chinese claims to disputed islands, once reliable ally Myanmar flirting with democracy and renewed American attention to the region.

    The changing terrain for Beijing was on view this past week at a conclave of East Asian nations in Cambodia. Wen Jiabao, China’s lame duck premier, got into a sharp exchange over the contested South China Sea islands.

    The leaders of the Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam reacted furiously when host Cambodia suggested that all sides agreed not to bring outside parties into the dispute — a reference to the U.S.

    Meanwhile, Barack Obama, buoyed by his Myanmar visit, projected an image of a confident, friendly America, calling for a reduction in tensions and seemingly taking no sides.

  4. #4
    India counters China map claims in a tit-for-tat move

    Agence France-Presse

    3:46 pm | Saturday, November 24th, 2012 Tweet

    NEW DELHI—India is stamping its map on visas given to Chinese visitors, an Indian official said Saturday, after China began issuing passports showing disputed territories as its own.

    “We have started issuing visas with India’s map as we know it,” said a foreign ministry official, who did not wish to be named, declining to comment further.

    India’s tit-for-tat action comes after China began issuing new biometric passports showing Arunachal Pradesh and Aksai China — regions that New Delhi claims — as part of Chinese territory.

    And the response comes amid already strained ties between the two Asian giants.

    Beijing has also included disputed islands in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) in the map outline on the new passports, angering both the Philippines and Vietnam, as well as areas including two of Taiwan’s most famous scenic spots.

    Early this week, the Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario wrote a protest note to the Chinese embassy and the Vietnam government said it has also lodged its objections with Beijing.

    India’s The Hindu newspaper said the Indian government had decided not to take up the issue formally with China.

    “It feels it will be better to speak through actions… than words,” the newspaper quoted an unidentified government official as saying.

    Beijing has attempted to downplay the diplomatic fallout from the recently introduced passports, with a foreign ministry spokeswoman saying the maps were “not made to target any specific country”.

    The disputed border between India and China has been the subject of 14 rounds of fruitless talks since 1962, when the two nations fought a brief, bloody war over the northeastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh.

    China’s build-up of military infrastructure along the frontier has become a major source of concern for India, which increasingly sees Beijing as a longer-term threat to its security than traditional rival Pakistan.

    India is also wary of increased Chinese activity in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh which New Delhi sees as within its sphere of influence.

  5. #5
    PH patrol vessel on standby

    By Jerry E. Esplanada

    Philippine Daily Inquirer

    2:49 am | Monday, November 26th, 2012

    The Philippine Coast Guard on Sunday declared it was ready to deploy a patrol vessel to Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal) in the West Philippine Sea as China announced it had conducted the first landing of a fighter jet on its new aircraft carrier.

    The landing was a demonstration of China’s ability to project its military might in territorial disputes with Southeast Asian nations in the West Philippine Sea and maintain its own influence in the area, eyed by the United States in its “pivot” to Asia, a new military strategy that would see half of its warships shifting to the region by the end of the decade.

    Lt. Commander Armand Balilo, Coast Guard spokesperson, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that the BRP Pampanga was “on standby” and “ready for deployment” to Panatag Shoal, where Philippine and Chinese ships faced off with each other from early April to mid-June in a territorial dispute that had gone on unresolved, and marred talks between Southeast Asian nations and China in Cambodia last week.

    China has begun issuing new passports with a map of China that includes disputed territories in the West Philippine Sea and the East Sea, angering the Philippines and Vietnam, which protested the new Chinese strategy that they saw as forcing them to recognize China’s claims in the sea.

    The latest Chinese display of assertiveness could spark fresh tensions in the sea. The Philippine Coast Guard said the Pampanga was ready to go and all the agency was waiting for was the go-signal from the Department of National Defense (DND) and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

    The Pampanga was one of two Philippine vessels that faced off with up to 100 Chinese ships and fishing boats at the disputed shoal.

    Balilo said that if the order to deploy came, the Pampanga, a search-and-rescue vessel, could hook up with a Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) ship to resume the watch at Panatag, where three Chinese ships were pressing the Chinese claim.

    President Aquino said in June that he would order Philippine ships back to the shoal if the Chinese did not clear the area.

    The Chinese did not. On Saturday, Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario, speaking at the Philippine Military Academy in Baguio City, called on China to respect the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ), an expanse of sea 370 kilometers (200 nautical miles) from the coastlines of sovereign states. Panatag Shoal, 220 km west of Zambales, is within the Philippine EEZ.

    Chinese carrier

    There were reports on Friday that the Pampanga had left port at Poro Point in La Union province and it was heading for the shoal. The Coast Guard said the reports were not true.

    But Balilo said on Sunday the Pampanga was ready to go anytime the order to deploy came.

    When it deploys, the Pampanga could come nose to nose with the Liaoning, China’s first aircraft carrier, on which a Chinese-made J-15 fighter jet successfully landed in recent exercises.

    “The successful landing … has always been seen as a symbol of the operating combat capability for an aircraft carrier,” Zhang Junshe, a vice director at the Chinese military’s Naval Affairs Research Institute, told state television Sunday.

    “This is a landmark even for China’s aircraft carrier … and (moves it) one step closer to combat readiness,” Zhang said.

    Video footage carried by China Central Television showed a tail hook on the rear of the J-15 catching hold of a cable on the deck of the aircraft carrier as the jet landed and slowed to a halt.

    China had not previously announced that its Navy possessed such highly technical cable landing technology.

    The J-15 had also successfully taken off from the aircraft carrier, the Chinese defense ministry said.

    The J-15 is a Chinese-designed multipurpose carrier-borne fighter jet based on Russia’s Sukoi 33, equipped with Russian engines and capable of carrying precision-guided bombs, press reports said.

    The 300-meter Liaoning, a former Soviet carrier that China had refitted, went into service in September in a symbolic milestone for China’s growing military muscle that comes at a time when Beijing is increasingly embroiled in a series of territorial disputes with its neighbors.

    Since the carrier entered service, the crew have completed more than 100 training and test programs, the defense ministry said.

    The Liaoning, named for the northeastern province that includes Dalian, is not expected to be fully operational for another three years at least.

    Vietnam, disputing China’s claims to islands within its territory, has fighter seacraft and planes, and has actually fought naval skirmishes with China over territory in the Paracel archipelago in the East Sea.

    No war assets

    The Philippines has no warships larger and more capable than the second-hand cutter donated to it by the United States earlier this year. It has no fighter jets and its military modernization program is looking to acquire only trainer jets.

    The Philippine Coast Guard hopes to get 12 brand-new patrol boats from Japan in 2014. With a report from AFP

  6. #6
    Vietnam won't stamp controversial China passports

    (philstar.com) | Updated November 26, 2012 - 1:38pm

    HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — Vietnamese authorities are refusing to stamp Chinese passports featuring a map that includes disputed islands in the South China Sea as Chinese territory. They are instead issuing visas on a separate piece of paper.

    The head of the border guard command in the northern province of Quang Ninh bordering China said Monday that border guards have been instructed to issue stapled visas to Chinese people with such passports.

    There is concern among Vietnamese authorities that by stamping visas in such passports the government would be indirectly recognizing Beijing's claims to the disputed territory.

    The Philippines has also protested the map on the Chinese passports, which incorporates most of the South China Sea as its territory.
    FRIENDS LANG KAMI

  7. #7
    Philippines will not stamp new Chinese passport

    (philstar.com)

    Updated November 29, 2012 - 9:17am

    A Chinese man holds up a Chinese passport with details on a page that shows dashes which include the South China Sea as part of the Chinese territory outside a passport office in Beijing, China, Friday, Nov. 23, 2012. The Philippines has protested China's depiction of its claims over the entire South China Sea in an image of a map printed on newly issued Chinese e-passports. - AP

    MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The Philippines has become the latest country to say it will not stamp visas in a new Chinese passport because it includes a map of the South China Sea that Manila says shows its territory.

    The Department of Foreign Affairs said Wednesday that the visas will be stamped in a separate visa application form.



    It said the move reinforces its protest formally conveyed to Beijing last week against China's "excessive claim over almost the entire South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea."

    It said stamping the passport could be seen as "legitimizing" China's claims.

    Vietnam has already said it will not stamp the passports, while Taiwan has protested against the map's maritime borders and India has rejected the map's depiction of its northern border with China. India has retaliated by issuing Chinese citizens visas embossed with New Delhi's own maps.

    The United States, which is taking no side in the territorial disputes but wants to ensure safe maritime traffic in one of the world's busiest sea lanes, has said it will raise its concerns over the map with Beijing.

    China's Foreign Ministry says putting the map in the passport was not directed at any particular country.

  8. #8
    China to board, expel ships in disputed sea


    PH military hits violation of int’l shipping rights

    Philippine Daily Inquirer

    12:06 am | Friday, November 30th, 2012

    BEIJING—China has granted its border patrol police the right to board and expel foreign ships entering disputed waters in the South China Sea, including parts known as West Philippine Sea, state media reported on Thursday.

    The rules, which come into effect on January 1, will allow police in the southern Chinese province of Hainan to board and seize control of foreign ships that “illegally enter” Chinese waters and order them to change course or stop sailing,” the official China Daily reported.

    The Philippines, one of the obvious targets of the new rules, could not confirm the reports on Thursday.

    Raul Hernandez, spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), said the agency was gathering more information on the new Chinese move.

    “If it is true, it will pose a concern to the Philippines and the international community,” Hernandez said.

    In Malacañang, presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said: “Instead of asking the Philippine government to comment on a position taken by a local Chinese government official, why doesn’t the press ask the Chinese Embassy here and confirm if that is also the position they are adopting?”

    But the Philippine military found the new Chinese rule “too much.”

    “That cannot be. That’s a violation of the international passage (rights),” Marine Lieutenant General Juancho Sabban, commander of military forces in the western Philippines (Wescom), which covers the West Philippine Sea, said in a phone interview with defense reporters at Camp Aguinaldo.

    “That’s too much. While we are exerting all peaceful means (to resolve the territorial dispute), that is what they (are doing),” Sabban said.

    No war

    President Aquino, however, does not see the territorial dispute with China as leading to war.

    Speaking to an audience of grade school students at The Learning Tree Child Growth Center in Sikatuna Village in Quezon City on Tuesday, Aquino said the Philippines would protect its exclusive economic zone.

    But that did not mean the country would go to the extent of fighting a war with China, he said.

    Noting that China was a nuclear power, Aquino said the Philippines would fight for its territory in the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea.

    Asked about China’s position that the Philippines was misinterpreting the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea provision on the exclusive economic zone, Aquino said: “Well, obviously there will be a difference of opinion owing to the fact that we are on different sides of defense with their country, in reference to this particular issue. But we’ve always maintained that our approach to the dispute in the West Philippine Sea is a rules-based approach.”

    Rival claims

    China’s assertion of sovereignty over the stretch of water off its south coast and to the east of mainland Southeast Asia has set it directly against Vietnam and the Philippines, while Brunei, Taiwan and Malaysia also lay claim to parts of the sea.

    Hainan, which likes to style itself as China’s answer to Hawaii or Bali with its resorts and beaches, is the province responsible for administering the country’s extensive claims to the myriad islets and atolls in the sea.

    China Daily said the government would also send new maritime surveillance ships to join the fleet responsible for patrolling the sea, believed to be rich in oil and gas and straddling shipping lanes between East Asia and Europe and the Middle East.

    The new rules come after Beijing issued new passports containing a map showing its claim to almost the whole of the South China Sea, infuriating its neighbors.

    Vietnam and the Philippines refuse to stamp the documents, which Indonesia on Thursday called “counterproductive.”

    Both Vietnam and the Philippines have protested the map, with the Philippines calling it an “excessive declaration of maritime space in violation of international law.”

    The state-run Global Times reported on Thursday that Hainan passed new regulations this week allowing local police “to board, seize and expel foreign ships illegally entering the province’s sea areas.”

    Activities defined as illegal by the new regulation include “illegally halting or dropping anchor… and carrying out publicity campaigns that endanger China’s national security,” the official Xinhua news agency said.

    Hainan province administers around 2 million square kilometers of sea waters, including the Spratly islands, which are also claimed in whole or in part by the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan.

    Panatag Shoal

    The vast territory that China claims also includes Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal), a resource-rich part of the sea within the Philippines’ 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone, where Chinese and Philippine ships faced off with each other from early April to mid-June, both sides asserting sovereignty over the area.

    Asked about the reports on Thursday, Beijing’s foreign ministry press officer Hong Lei said only: “It is the legitimate right of the sovereign state to carry out maritime management.”

    The Global Times quoted Li Zhaojie, a professor at Beijing’s Tsinghua University, as saying the regulation could lead to stricter enforcement of Beijing’s right to expel ships entering its territory illegally.

    Li said these rights were granted by a United Nations convention.

    “In the past, when foreign ships broke the UN convention, the best thing our patrol could do was chase them out of China’s waters. The new regulation will change that, and give the patrol force the legal means to actually do its job.”

    The Philippine Coast Guard, which on Sunday said it was ready to deploy a ship to Panatag to resume the face-off with China, had no comment on Thursday’s report on the new Chinese rule.

    Pull out ships

    But Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said the Philippines was still asking China to withdraw three ships from Panatag Shoal almost six months after it promised to pull out.

    Del Rosario said that while the Philippines withdrew its own ships from Panatag on June 4, as agreed by both countries, China’s three government ships remained in the area.

    “They have three ships in the vicinity right now. They have never really left. We are continuing to ask them to honor our sovereignty and . . . we are asking them to pull out their ships as agreed upon,” he said.

    The Philippines and Vietnam have accused China of ramping tensions in the area, with the map of China on new passports showing the disputed parts of the sea as the latest provocative move by Beijing.

    The Philippines will implement next week a new procedure for processing visa applications for Chinese travelers carrying the new passport with the controversial map.

    The Philippines is not stamping the new Chinese passports. But it is stamping visas for Chinese travelers on a separate form.

    India has started stamping its own map onto visas for Chinese visitors as the passports also show the disputed border areas of Arunachai Prades and Aksai Chin as Chinese territory.

    Beijing has attempted to play down the diplomatic fallout from the passports, with the foreign ministry arguing the map was “not made to target any specific country.”

    Counterproductive

    But Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa on Thursday said the new Chinese passports were “counterproductive.”

    Although it is not a claimant to territory in the West Philippine Sea, Indonesia has mediated in the dispute between China and Southeast Asian nations with claims to parts of the sea.

    Indonesia is also a major supplier of commodities to China, which is increasingly exploring mines and constructing smelters in Indonesia to fuel its economy.

    Natalegawa, who has hopped between claimant nations this year over the issue, warned that the passports would worsen the already tense dispute and said Jakarta would convey its position to Beijing.

    “These actions are counterproductive and will not help settle the disputes,” he said in an interview with the Jakarta Post daily.

    “We perceive the Chinese move as disingenuous, like testing the waters, to see its neighbors’ reactions,” he said.

    Natalegawa said the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) should concentrate on finalizing a code of conduct as a first step to ease tensions over the territorial disputes.

    “I hope that we, Asean and China, can focus on dialogue,” he said.—Reports from Nikko Dizon, Tarra Quismundo, Michael Lim Ubac, Jerry Esplanada, AFP and Reuters
    FRIENDS LANG KAMI

  9. #9
    ^ As a just punishment I hope every Chinese child under 13 is stricken with cancer and dies agonizingly. China's sins weigh heavily.
    FRIENDS LANG KAMI

  10. #10
    China plan to board ships sets off alarm

    Philippine Daily Inquirer

    1:25 am | Saturday, December 1st, 2012

    JAKARTA—Southeast Asia’s top diplomat warned on Friday of great anxiety over China’s plan to board and search ships that illegally enter what it considers its territory in the disputed South China Sea and said it could lead to naval clashes and undermine confidence in East Asia’s economy.

    Beijing, however, moved to ease international alarm over the issue and said it attaches “great importance” to freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, a day after state media said police in its southern island province of Hainan will carry out the new plan.

    “All countries have freedom of navigation in the South China Sea in accordance with international law,” foreign ministry spokesperson Hong Lei told a daily news briefing.

    New rules to come into effect on Jan. 1 will allow police in the southern Chinese province of Hainan to board and seize control of foreign ships that “illegally enter” Chinese waters, the official China Daily reported on Thursday.

    The report, which was also carried by other state media, further ratchets up tensions over Southeast Asia’s biggest potential military flash point, one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes where several countries claim sovereignty.

    President Aquino ordered the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Thursday to verify reports about the new Chinese border rule.

    If the reports are true, the Philippines will defend its interests, Mr. Aquino told a news conference in Mandaue City, Cebu province.

    Mr. Aquino said the Philippines had two options: raise a diplomatic protest to Beijing or bring the dispute to an international court.

    “In advancing our interest, we might accelerate and bring it [to] the appropriate international tribunal to finally settle the matter or at least start the process of settling it legally and completely,” he said.

    China’s plan would be difficult to implement because it runs counter to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, he said.

    Mr. Aquino said China had made repeated statements that it would not block freedom of navigation in the area.

    Serious turn of events

    Surin Pitsuwan, secretary general of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), on Friday said China’s plan was an escalation of tensions and a “very serious turn of events.”

    “It certainly has increased a level of concern and a level of great anxiety among all parties, particularly parties that would need the access, the passage and the freedom to go through,” Surin told Reuters in an interview from Thailand.

    Surin, using unusually strong language, said the plan could lead to a major incident that would affect confidence in East Asia, a major engine of global economic growth.

    “It is extremely important to exercise restraint and to try to approach this development with a level head and be open to listen to concerns of all parties, all sides,” he said.

    China claims virtually the entire South China Sea. Asean members the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei and Malaysia claim various parts, and so does Taiwan.

    The shortest route between the Pacific and Indian oceans, the South China Sea has some of the world’s busiest shipping lanes. More than half the globe’s oil tanker traffic passes through the South China Sea.

    Analysts said the plan to board foreign vessels would roil global financial markets, add to global economic uncertainty, and impact global trade that would impact China as well, said Scott Harrison, managing director of Pacific Strategies and Assessments in Manila.



    Protest

    In Manila, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said the Philippines should protest China’s plan.

    “That’s not a good statement from China. We will just have to see what we can do to avoid this situation where they will be boarding our ships. Maybe at this point we need to file right away a protest,” Gazmin told reporters after celebration rites for the 149th birth anniversary of national hero Andres Bonifacio in Camp Aguinaldo.

    Peter Paul Galvez, spokesperson for the Department of National Defense (DND), said Gazmin’s recommendation would be “the action once [the new Chinese plan] is made official” by a statement from the Chinese government itself.

    Galvez said the DND was gathering more information about the new Chinese border rule.

    “We are waiting for an official statement from the Chinese government,” Galvez said. “That will be something that the Department of Foreign Affairs will clarify.”

    Rep. Rodolfo Biazon, chair of the House committee on national defense, said China’s plan was bound to affect the interests of countries that use the South China Sea, including the United States and European countries.

    Security council

    Biazon, a former military chief, urged President Aquino to convene the National Security Council “so we will have a uniform voice.”

    “China’s move will definitely escalate tensions in the area,” he said.

    Rep. Ben Evardone, chair of the House committee on public information, said China’s plan was “provocative.”

    He said Asean, the United States, and the United Nations should deal with the new Chinese move in a “collective action.”

    “Clearly China is trying to bully the Philippines and other countries in the region,” Evardone said. “The Asean, UN and the US should initiate moves to preserve peace in the area and to ensure navigational freedom in the West Philippine Sea.”

    Biazon said the DFA should clarify the reports directly with Beijing, and check if the order came only from Hainan province.

    He said it should boost Manila’s rejection of Beijing’s insistence on bilateral talks to solve the territorial dispute between the Philippines and China.

    Not limited to Asean

    “[T]he problem should not be limited [to] Asean. It should be tackled at the level of the UN and include the US,” Biazon said.

    “[N]ot only [countries] in Asia will be affected. You also have countries [in] Europe, the Middle East, and Latin and North America [that] use the areas to be policed by China,” he said.

    The DFA, he said, should be clarified about what “particular activities” will be covered by the new Chinese border rule.

    “[H]ow would the order affect the international principle of innocent passage?” Biazon asked. Reports from Nikko Dizon and Christian V. Esguerra in Manila; Jhunnex Napallacan, Inquirer Visayas
    FRIENDS LANG KAMI


 
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