South China Sea Islands Dispute; US won’t take sides


Beijing rejects island dispute comments

Beijing on Tuesday criticized Manila‘s attempt to expand the Huangyan Island dispute over the entire South China Sea and rejected Manila’s accusation over the freedom of navigation.

Huangyan Island has been an integral part of China’s territory since ancient times, and the Philippines‘ groundless claim over the island’s sovereignty is “the fundamental cause” of the complicated situation, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said.

His remarks were made in response to Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario, who accused China on Monday of “claiming virtually the entire South China Sea”.

“Expanding the Huangyan Island dispute to involve the entire South China Sea makes no sense,” Liu said at a daily news conference.

Also on Monday, the foreign secretary said “the message is” that China “can set the rules for anybody”.

“I think the current standoff is a manifestation of a larger threat to many nations,” del Rosario told ABS-CBN TV network in an interview.

Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez also said that China is posing “a potential threat to freedom of navigation as well as unimpeded commerce in the area”.

Beijing on Tuesday responded that freedom of navigation in the South China Sea “has never been an issue”, and China’s long-term exercise and protection of sovereignty over the island “has never and will not influence” freedom of navigation in the waters.

On the contrary, Manila’s recent decision to send a warship to the island and dispatch personnel for a forced inspection of Chinese fishing boats triggered the existing tension, said the Chinese spokesman.

“Manila’s moves unavoidably gave rise to massive concerns over security in the related waters,” Liu added.

Yang Baoyun, a professor of Southeast Asian studies at Peking University, said Manila’s current remarks and stances “show few signs of sincerity” to resolve the dispute.

No country is allowed to misuse international laws to serve its interest, Yang said, adding that Manila did not lay territorial claim to the island until 1997.

Hernandez also said on Monday that Manila planned to exchange views with Washington on the island dispute during the upcoming “2+2″ US-Filipino talks, scheduled to start on Monday.

“Generally, a country does not take sides on other countries’ sovereignty disputes. And we have noticed that none of the other countries has taken sides on the issue,” said Liu, the spokesman.

Manila’s standoff against Beijing in the waters of Huangyan Island entered its fifteenth day on Tuesday.

On April 10, 12 Chinese fishing boats were harassed by a Philippine warship while taking refuge from harsh weather in a lagoon near the island. Two Chinese patrol ships in the area later came to the fishermen’s rescue, and the warship left.

The Chinese fishermen returned home, but the standoff remains. There were still two Philippine vessels and one Chinese ship in the waters on Tuesday.

Xinhua News Agency on Monday reported that two Chinese vessels, a Fishery Administration ship and a Chinese Maritime Surveillance ship, left the area on Sunday.

“The withdrawal of the two ships proves once again that China is not escalating the situation as some people said, but de-escalating the situation,” said Zhang Hua, spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in the Philippines.

China is ready to settle this incident through friendly diplomatic consultations, Zhang added.

(Source: China Daily)

US won’t take sides in South China Sea dispute

Updated: 2012-05-02 12:24 By Zhao Shengnan (China Daily)

The United States said on Monday that it would not take sides in the Huangyan Island standoff between China and the Philippines in the South China Sea and reiterated support for a diplomatic resolution to the territorial dispute.

Washington does not take sides on competing sovereignty claims there, but has a national interest in maintaining freedom of navigation as well as peace and stability, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, after meeting top diplomatic and defense officials from the Philippines.

Philippine Foreign Secretary Alberto del Rosario and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin attended the 2+2 dialogue with their US counterparts, Clinton and Leon Panetta, in Washington.

“The United States supports a collaborative diplomatic process by all those involved for resolving the various disputes that they encounter,” Clinton said. “We oppose the threat or use of force by any party to advance its claims.”

Gazmin alluded to tension with China over islands in the South China Sea as he called for the need to “intensify our mutual trust to uphold maritime security and the freedom of navigation”.

“We should be able to work together to build a minimum, credible defense posture for the Philippines, especially in upholding maritime security,” Gazmin said.

The Philippines and China have been embroiled in the Huangyan Island dispute, with both nations stationing vessels there for nearly three weeks to assert their sovereignty.

China on Monday highlighted remarks made by the Philippine president about de-escalating the tension over the island, urging the Philippines to “match its words with deeds” and return to the proper pathway of diplomatic solutions.

Speaking of the tension, Philippine President Benigno Simeon Cojuangco Aquino III said he had issued instructions to his military, telling them not to intensify the issue.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin stressed that there is no change in China’s stance of using diplomatic channels to peacefully resolve the issue, which was triggered when a Philippine warship harassed Chinese fishermen and raised concerns over China’s sovereignty of the island.

The Philippine officials also stressed diplomacy when asked what aid they had requested from Washington, saying that Manila sought to bring the South China Sea issue to international legal bodies.

Clinton reaffirmed the US commitment to the 60-year-old Mutual Defense Treaty with the Philippines, calling the Philippines a country “at the heart” of the new US strategy toward the Asia-Pacific.

Washington would help improve the Philippines’ “maritime presence and capabilities” with the transfer of a second high-endurance (coast guard) cutter this year, Panetta said.

The US emphasis on neutrality and a diplomatic resolution would encourage Manila to be more restrained on the Huangyan Island issue, said Fan Jishe, a US studies expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

“Washington doesn’t want territorial disputes between its Asian allies and China to be obstacles to China-US relations,” he said.

Xinhua and Reuters contributed to this story.

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