U.S. designs on South China Sea exposed!


BEIJING, May 25 (Xinhua) — U.S. Senator John Kerry‘s recent statement on the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea has exposed the country’s selfish intentions for the South China Sea, an area where the United States has no claims to sovereignty and is not a party in disputes there.

Kerry, chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, said during a hearing on the convention held Wednesday that China and other countries are “staking out illegal claims in the South China Sea and elsewhere.”

He added that becoming a party to the treaty would provide an immediate boost to U.S. credibility “as we push back against excessive maritime claims and illegal restrictions on our warships or commercial vessels.”

As the United States turns its national security focus toward the Asia-Pacific region, its willingness to join the convention is a means to find a legal framework for the country to interfere with issues in the South China Sea and elsewhere, as well as maximize its strategic interests in political, economic and military fields around the world.

The U.S. is the only major nation that has refused to sign the treaty, which has been endorsed by 160 countries and the European Union.

The hearing was the first one on the treaty in four years, and the Obama administration and the U.S. Armed Forces are now pushing Congress to sign it.

The reason why the U.S. once refused to sign the treaty is that the treaty’s provisions will limit the free navigational rights of U.S. warships in other countries’ exclusive economic zones.

However, the U.S. attitude toward the convention is now changing.

Dr. Zhang Haiwen, deputy director of the China Institute for Marine Affairs under the State Oceanic Administration, said the U.S. has realized the disadvantages of not signing the convention, which have impaired its role as a leader in global maritime issues.

Kerry said at the hearing that ratifying the treaty will lock down the favorable navigational rights that the U.S. military and shipping interests depend on every single day. It will also strengthen the country’s hand against China and others who “stake out claims” in the Pacific, the Arctic or elsewhere.

The treaty will also help U.S. companies’ oil and gas investments secure the country’s energy future as well as help secure access to rare earth minerals, which the country needs for weapons systems, computers and cell phones, among other products, Kerry added.

Kerry also said that China and other countries are “staking out illegal claims in the South China Sea and elsewhere.” However, the truth is that he thought disputes in the South China Sea have affected U.S. companies’ rights to gain oil and gas resources in the region and the free navigational rights of its vessels.

Zhang said the convention is the fruit of over a decade of international negotiations and the product of the balance of different interests. It provides fundamental and principled provisions for maritime activities for the whole of mankind.

“But the convention itself cannot solve territorial disputes,” said Zhang.

She said China’s territorial claims over some islands and shoals in the South China Sea have sufficient historical evidence and legal bases, and have been recognized by the international community over a long period of time.

It is dangerous that some U.S. politicians are expanding U.S. claims and raising its degree of interference. This will aggravate regional tensions and is not conducive to resolving issues.

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China to handle S China Sea disputes through direct negotiations

BEIJING, May 25 (Xinhua) — A Foreign Ministry spokesman said Friday that China will negotiate directly with relevant parties in regards to resolving disputes in the South China Sea.

“China has long been committed to safeguarding peace and stability by consulting with ASEAN nations and signing agreements, such as the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said. Full story

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United we stand, divided we fall in South China Sea?


The continuing standoff between China and the Philippines over the Scarborough Shoal (Huangyan Island) is a reminder that Asean needs to get its act together sooner rather than later.

THE South China Sea, spread over 3.6 million sq km, has long been a hotbed of overlapping bilateral and multilateral territorial claims.

China claims “indisputable sovereignty” over three-fourths of the South China Sea, including the Paracel and Spratly group of islands, the Macclesfield Bank and the Scarborough Shoal. Parts of the Spratly islands are also claimed by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam.

The Paracels are claimed by China and Vietnam while the Scarborough Shoal involves the Philippines and China.

What makes these claims significant, and complicated, is the real possibility that the South China Sea may contain some of the world’s most significant deposits of oil and gas. Some estimates suggest that the region may contain as much as 20-30 billion tonnes of oil or 12% of global reserves.

Earlier this year, the Philippines invited foreign companies to drill for oil in the Scarborough Shoal area. China immediately condemned the move. The People’s Daily, in an editorial, even went so far as to call for “substantial moves, such as economic sanctions, to counter aggression from the Philippines”.

China has repeatedly stated that it wants to settle these conflicting claims through peaceful negotiations. However, it has not been averse to using force when challenged; it forcibly took the Paracels and seven of the Spratly islands from Vietnam following skirmishes in 1974 and 1988, respectively.

This stands in contrast to the peaceful resolution of island disputes between Malaysia and Singapore, and Malaysia and Indonesia, through the auspices of the International Court of Justice.

Malaysia and Thailand also set a sterling example in 1979 by agreeing to put aside overlapping boundary claims in the Gulf of Thailand and jointly exploiting oil resources there, a win-win situation for both sides. A similar agreement was signed between Malaysia and Vietnam in 1992.

Territorial sovereignty can, of course, be a highly emotive issue. Nations often work themselves into a frenzy and go to great lengths to defend a pile of rock, a shoal or a frozen bit of mountain.

India and Pakistan, for example, have squared off against each other for more than 20 years over a worthless patch of ice in the Himalayas, 5,700m above sea level.

More soldiers have died of harsh weather conditions than actual combat but the madness goes on with no end in sight.

In 1996, Asean ministers, recognising the potential for conflict arising from overlapping claims in the South China Sea, agreed to negotiate a regional framework for managing the issue. It has been a difficult process.

In 2002, Asean and China managed only a joint declaration committing themselves to the peaceful resolution of their territorial disputes. It has not, however, prevented tense situations from developing as we have seen in the Scarborough Shoal.

Understandably, Asean is extremely wary of upsetting China. China has become too big, too powerful, too overwhelming to antagonise.

At the same time, Asean is also deeply divided on the question of how to respond to issues that are strictly bilateral in nature or limited to just a few of its members.

The Philippines, for example, has long pressed for a tougher Asean position in order to strengthen its hand vis-à-vis China, something that other Asean countries have been reluctant to endorse fearing it will only lead to further confrontation.

There is, in fact, a sense within Asean that the Philippines has mismanaged its handling of the issue, a view that is also shared by quite a few Filipino commentators. Now that the United States has signalled its reluctance to be drawn into the dispute, Asean leaders are hoping Manila will reassess its position.

Asean needs to realise, however, that its greatest strength in dealing with China or any one else for that matter, on this or any other issue, is its own unity and solidarity. United it stands, divided it falls.

All issues that affect regional security, whether bilateral or multilateral in nature, need to be managed together for the good of the whole Asean community.

Asean leaders must, therefore, find common purpose to help develop an effective framework to resolve these kinds of disputes.

In the end, the options, short of war, in the South China Sea are limited.

China and the Asean countries can put aside their competing claims and jointly work to exploit the resources of the South China Sea, as Malaysia and Thailand have done, or resort to international arbitration.

The former could well lead to a real zone of peace, cooperation and prosperity and cement the already burgeoning relations between China and the Asean countries. The latter is bound to leave sore losers and a divided region.

For China, a win-win solution with Asean will also undercut efforts by other powers to exploit regional fears of China in an attempt to build new alliances aimed at Beijing.

Whatever it is, the worst thing Asean and China can do is to let the issue fester.

By Dennis Ignatius Diplomatically Speaking

> Datuk Dennis Ignatius is a 36-year veteran of the Malaysian foreign service. He has served in London, Beijing and Washington and was ambassador to Chile and Argentina. He was twice Undersecretary for American Affairs. He retired as High Commis­sioner to Canada in July 2008.

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China warns Philippines over Huangyan Island as tension rise


Chinawill not allow anyone to take away sovereignty

Air Force Flag of the People's Republic of ChinaAir Force Flag of the People’s Republic of China (Photo credit: Wikipedia) >>

BEIJING, May 10 (Xinhua) — The PLA Daily, the official newspaper of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China, on Thursday warned the Philippines about the Huangyan Island incident, saying the country’s armed forces will not allow anyone to take the sovereignty of the island away from China.

“We want to say that anyone’s attempt to take away China’s sovereignty over Huangyan Island will not be allowed by the Chinese government, people and armed forces,” the newspaper said in a signed article titled “Don’t Attempt to Take Away Half an Inch of China’s Territory.”

Instead, it is wise to give up such attempts and abide by international rules to gain the forgiveness of the Chinese people and the pardon of the international community.

China has exercised restraint on the Huangyan Island incident. “If one mistakes China’s kindness for weakness and regards China as a ‘paper dragon’ as instigated by some onlookers, he is terribly wrong,” the article added.

China had suffered too much humiliation as its sovereignty was encroached and territory carved up when the country was poor and weak.

China now pursues an independent foreign policy of peace.

It will not bully the weak by being strong, nor blindly tolerate unreasonable tricks played by others, especially on matters concerning territorial integrity, national dignity and social stability.

It is obvious that the Philippine side has not realized that it is making serious mistakes, although one month has passed since the beginning of the incident, said the article.

Instead, the Philippine side is stepping up efforts to escalate tensions, has continued to send government vessels to the Huangyan Island lagoon and has repeatedly made erroneous remarks which have misled the Philippine public and the international community and provoked public feelings, thus severely damaging bilateral relations.

The situation is not optimistic, the article said.

China’s sovereignty over the island is based on both historical and legal grounds. No matter what tricks the Philippines may play, the fact that Huangyan Island belongs to China will never change, the article said.

Even Philippine maps published in 1981, 1984 and 2006, which indicate that Huangyan Island is outside of the Philippines’ territory, show how ridiculous the Philippine side is when it attempts to claim sovereignty over the island.

Moreover, the repeated tricks by the Philippines have failed to gain support from its own people, the international community and even its allies. It is quite likely the Philippine side will drink as it brewed, said the article.

China issues warnings as Philippines tensions rise

Return to frontpage By Ananth Krishnan

AP A placard with drawing of a Philippine warship is displayed during a protest at the Philippines Consulate in Hong Kong on Friday. The Philippine government used this second hand warship from the American aid, its naval personnel had boarded the Chinese fishing boats, inspected their equipment and catch last month.

China has issued a safety advisory to its citizens in the Philippines and suspended travel to the country a day ahead of a large planned demonstration against China over rising tensions in the South China Sea.

The Chinese embassy in Manila in a notice warned that “massive anti-China demonstrations” were scheduled to take place on Friday, advising Chinese nationals to avoid going out and to “keep a low profile”.

The warning came as vessels from both countries remained locked in a stand-off near the disputed Scarborough Shoal or Huangyan Island in the South China Sea, which both sides claim.

Chinese State-run media outlets on Thursday continued issuing stern warnings to the Philippines, not ruling out the use of force. The Foreign Ministry, however, appeared to strike a more moderate tone and suggested a way out through a diplomatic solution, saying it “approved” of recent remarks by officials in the Philippines “to resume diplomatic contact with the Chinese embassy”.

“China remains committed to solving the situation through diplomatic consultation and negotiation,” spokesperson Hong Lei told reporters on Thursday, calling on the Philippines to “come back to the right track of handling the matter”.

He did also hit out at the Philippines government for “encouraging people both home and abroad to launch demonstrations against China”. “We urge the Philippines side to respect China’s sovereignty on the issue of Huangyan Island and not to take actions that will complicate and amplify the situation,” Mr. Hong said.

Reflecting the rising tensions, Chinese travel agencies said on Thursday they had suspended planned trips to the Philippines following an order from central authorities. Ctrip, a popular travel portal, said it suspended travel because “trips to the Philippines have become potential safety risks”, the official China Daily reported.

The newspaper in an editorial warned that while China did not seek a military conflict, the use of arms was not off the table. “No matter how willing we are to discuss the issue, the current Philippine leadership is intent on pressing us into a corner where there is no other option left but the use of arms,” the editorial said.

“We are faithful to our commitment to being a responsible member of the international community, and we pursue peaceful co-existence. But no international law allows a country’s sovereignty to be infringed upon, and a responsible nation does not try to seize territory that does not belong to it.”

The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) daily struck a harder tone, saying that “anyone’s attempt to take away China’s sovereignty over Huangyan Island will not be allowed by the Chinese government, people and armed forces”, in a commentary headlined “Don’t attempt to take away half an inch of China’s territory”.

“If one mistakes China’s kindness for weakness and regards China as a ‘paper dragon’ as instigated by some onlookers, he is terribly wrong,” the newspaper said.

Suggesting the stand-off may yet be resolved peacefully, China on Thursday also appeared to respond positively to a Philippines-based mining company’s proposal for joint drilling with the China National Offshore Oil Corporation. Officials said Beijing was willing to talk with the Philippines government over joint development.

The South China Sea, which is disputed by China and at least ten other countries, is estimated to have as much as one-third of China’s oil and gas resources and key sea lanes run through its disputed waters.

China’s first deep-water drilling rig in the South China Sea started operations on Wednesday, with calls from officials to speed up drilling projects. Feng Fei, head of the industry department of the Development Research Centre, the official think-tank of the State Council or Cabinet, said more than thousand oil wells had already been sunk by other countries. “China drilling in the South China Sea is of deep significance, and ensures our energy security by reducing dependence on foreign oil,” he said.

Wu Shicun, head of the National Institute for South China Sea Studies, added that joint development of resources could help address conflicts. “Against a backdrop of some countries not responding positively toward China’s proposal of joint development, it is of supreme importance to finally solving sovereignty disputes,” he said.

“Setting aside disputes and embarking on joint development is the most effective way to solve the issue.’’

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China urges Philippines to stop further harming bilateral relations

BEIJING, May 10 (Xinhuanet) — The spokesman of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Hong Lei condemned Philippines for inciting its people going on to streets for demonstrations against China. Hong says the incident has triggered severe concerns among Chinese people.

He also says China hopes Philippines to stop further harming the bilateral relations. Hong reiterated China’s stance on the dispute and urged Philippines not to taken any actions that may harm the relations between the two countries.  Full story

Commentary: Never test China’s will to defend its own sovereignty

BEIJING, May 9 (Xinhua) — For nearly a month, Manila has not only turned a deaf ear to Beijing’s position on resolving the dispute over China’s Huangyan Island through diplomacy, but made repeated provocative moves to heighten the tension, severely infringing China’s sovereignty in the process.

It is widely accepted Huangyan Island has been an integral part of China since ancient times, both on a historical and a legal basis. The surrounding waters are China’s traditional fishing grounds and Chinese fishmen have fished there for generations.  Full story

China is prepared for escalation of Huangyan Island incident

BEIJING, May 8 (Xinhua) — China’s Vice Foreign Minister Fu Ying said China is not optimistic about the situation concerning Huangyan Island, and the country is fully prepared to respond to anything the Philippine side does to escalate the situation.

Fu made the remarks when meeting with Alex Chua, Charge D’affaires of the Philippine Embassy in China, on Monday, China’s Foreign Ministry said Tuesday in a press release.  Full story

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Manila provocation blasted; Philippine Newspaper: Huangyan Island belongs to China


Manila provocation blasted

Photo taken on May 9, 2012 shows deep-water drilling rig CNOOC 981 in the South China Sea, south China, May 9, 2012. China’s first deep-water drilling rig CNOOC 981 started operations in the South China Sea at 9: 38 am on Wednesday, marking “a substantial step” made by the country’s deep-sea oil industry. The sixth-generation semi-submersible CNOOC 981 began drilling in a sea area 320 km southeast of Hong Kong at a water depth of 1,500 meters, according to China National Offshore Oil Corp. (CNOOC), the country’s largest offshore oil producer. Photo: Xinhua

China Wednesday accused the Philippines of instigating demonstrations against Beijing, urging Manila not to further damage bilateral relations by provoking public sentiment over the two sides’ spat in the South China Sea.

“We have noted that the Philippine side has repeatedly made strongly worded remarks about the Huangyan Island standoff, which have provoked public feelings and severely undermined the atmosphere of bilateral relations,” foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said.

“The Philippine side also instigated demonstrations, both inside and outside the country, against China, which have aroused strong responses and concern among Chinese people living around the world,” Hong added.

The spokesman said there is no change in China’s position on resolving the current tensions through diplomatic efforts, urging Manila to seriously respond to Beijing’s concerns and return to the right track.

Loida Nicolas-Lewis, a Filipino-American businesswoman, has called on all Filipinos around the world to mount demonstrations in front of Chinese embassies and consulates at 12 pm on Friday.

According to Reuters, civil society and political groups with links to Philippine President Benigno Aquino III’s political allies plan to take to the streets on Friday to “protest the Chinese presence” in waters near Huangyan Island.

The Chinese embassy in Manila has issued a safety alert, advising Chinese nationals to enhance safety awareness, avoid going out and stay away from protesters.

Ctrip.com International Ltd, a leading online travel service provider in China, decided to suspend trips to the Philippines Wednesday, citing safety risks of tours as tensions over Huangyan Island escalate.

A Global Times correspondent in Manila said the Chinese communities there are calm despite Friday’s looming protest.

“Issues concerning sovereignty are non-negotiable for China. The Philippines took China’s restraint for granted and kept staging provocations,” a researcher surnamed Ma with the Southeast Asian Institute of the Guangxi Academy of Social Sciences, said.

“The planned global protest against Chinese embassies has shown Manila’s intention to internationalize and complicate the issue. Beijing will lose its patience if Manila doesn’t back off,” Ma said.

Shen Shishun, a director of the Department for Asia-Pacific Security and Cooperation under the China Institute of International Studies, told the Global Times that stirring public emotions over Huangyan Island is a scheme by Aquino to shift domestic anger away from a gloomy economy.

“The standoff is caused by the Aquino administration. Further development of the matter depends on moves taken by the Philippine government,” Shen said.

According to the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the Philippine military reported that the number of Chinese vessels in the waters off Huangyan Island has increased to 33 from 14 last week, while the Philippines has two vessels in the area.

The paper said the Chinese vessels include three big ships, namely fishery law enforcement ship Yuzheng-310 and maritime surveillance ships Haijian-75 and Haijian-81. It said these ships are denying Filipino fishermen access to waters off Huangyan Island.

Also Wednesday, Philippine Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said he had received assurances during talks in Washington last week that the US would protect Manila from attacks in the South China Sea.

Gazmin said US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta stressed they were not taking sides in the dispute, but assured him the US would honor a 1951 mutual defense treaty.

“The Philippines has always wanted Washington to help it in a conflict with China, but the US won’t do so due to its own national interests,” Shen said, adding that Manila’s attempts to bring Washington on board shows its anxiety and fears over the tensions.

Meanwhile, China’s quality watchdog Wednesday ordered intensified quarantines on fruit imports from the Philippines.

The General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine said harmful insects or bacteria have been found in pineapples, bananas and other fruit imported from Southeast Asia since last year, and Chinese authorities have asked the Philippine side to make improvements.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer quoted Stephen Antig, president of the Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association, as saying that the tighter rules imposed by the biggest buyer of Philippine Cavendish bananas have sent jitters through the local industry.

“The Philippine economy will worsen if China, a major trade partner, reduces the import of agricultural products,” Shen said. “Such an import ban will not hurt China because the Philippine products are not irreplaceable.”

Xu Tianran and agencies contributed to this story

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South China Sea Conflict

Philippine Newspaper: “Huangyan Island belongs to China”

The Philippine Newspaper “Manila Standard Today” has released an article titled ” It belongs to China” written by author Victor N. Arches II.

The Filipino author looks at evidence and international documents, saying that Huangyan Island has been an integral part of China’s territory since ancient times. Recounting his motive in writing the article, Arches says he aims to educate the Philippines on the reality of the situation, versus what the Philippines media is promoting. Let’s take a look.

In the article, the author says that Huangyan Island has been a part of China’s territory since ancient times. Chinese fishermen, from both the Mainland and Taiwan, have used the island for many years.

“The Scarborough Shoal, ( Huangyan Island) does belong to China which discovered it and drew it in a map as early as 1279 during the Yuan Dynasty.”

The old maps relied upon by the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs were drawn up only in 1820, 541 years after China’s.

‘being relied upon by the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs in its spurious claim on the same territory were drawn up only in 1820, or 541 years after China’s.”

Arches said China organized many scientific expeditions around the island in the late 1970s. In 1980, a stone marker marks China’s scientific expedition was installed by China on the South Rock. However, the Philippines removed it without authority in 1997.

” In the late 1970s, China organized many scientific expeditions in the Shoal and around that area. In fact, in 1980, a stone marker reading “South China Sea Scientific Expedition” was installed by China on the South Rock.”

“This Chinese marker was removed, without authority, by the Philippines in 1997. “

He adds that all official maps published by the Philippines until the 1990 excluded Huangyan Island from its territorial boundaries. But an act approved by the Philippine government in 1961 stopped the Philippines from the claim.

“All official maps published by the Philippines until the 1990s excluded both the Spratlys and Scarborough Shoal (Huangyan Island) from its territorial boundaries.”

“Republic Act No. 3046, passed by our Congress and approved in 1961, stopped us from our claim.”

China holds three international treaties in support of its claim over the territories in question… all limiting Philippine territorial limits to the 118th degree meridian of longitude east of Greenwich.

“1898 Treaty of Paris between the US and Spain, the 1900 Treaty of Washington between Spain and the US, and the 1930 Treaty between Great Britain and the US, all limiting Philippine territorial limits to the 118th degree meridian of longitude east of Greenwich. “

Arches say the basis of the Philippine claim is restricted to proximity, relying solely on the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. He said that even if it were considered a “law”, it cannot be made to take effect retroactively.

“On the other hand, the basis of the Philippine claim is restricted to proximity, relying solely on the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.”

Arches believed there is no need to internationalize the Huangyan Island issue.

He said ASEAN is remaining neutral on the dispute and the US has also declared it will not take sides.

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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.

China’s warns US of Confrontation over South China Sea


Top military paper in China warns US of confrontation over South China Sea

BEIJINGChina’s top military newspaper warned the United States on Saturday that US-Philippine militaryexercises have fanned risks of armed confrontation over the disputed South China Sea.

The commentary in China’s Liberation Army Daily falls short of a formal government statement, but marks the harshest high-level warning yet from Beijing about tensions with the Philippinesover disputed seas where both countries have recently sent ships to assert their claims.

Dotted red line shows vast area claimed by China. The PHL, which is claiming some islands, has begun calling the region the West Philippine Sea. GMA News

This week American and Filipino troops launched a fortnight of annual naval drills amid the stand-off between Beijing and Manila, who have accused each other of encroaching on sovereign seas near Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal), about 200 kilometers west of the former U.S. naval base at Subic Bay.

The joint exercises are held in different seas around the Philippines; the leg that takes place in the South China Sea area starts on Monday.

“Anyone with clear eyes saw long ago that behind these drills is reflected a mentality that will lead the South China Sea issue down a fork in the road towards military confrontation and resolution through armed force,” said the commentary in the Chinese paper, which is the chief mouthpiece of the People’s Liberation Army.

“Through this kind of meddling and intervention, the United States will only stir up the entire South China Sea situation towards increasing chaos, and this will inevitably have a massive impact on regional peace and stability.”

Up to now, China has chided the Philippines over the dispute about the uninhabited shoal known in the Philippines as Panatag Shoal and which China calls Huangyan Island, about 124 nautical miles off the main Philippine island of Luzon.

“The United States’ intention of trying to draw more countries into stirring up the situation in the South China Sea is being brandished to the full,” it said.

Regional tensions
Beijing has sought to resolve the disputes one-on-one but there is worry among its neighbors over what some see as growing Chinese assertiveness in staking claims over the seas and various islands, reefs and shoals.

In past patches of regional tension over disputed seas, hawkish Chinese military voices have also emerged, only to be later reined in by the government, and the same could be true this time.

Since late 2010, China has sought to cool tensions with the United States over regional disputes, trade and currency policies, human rights and other contentious issues. Especially with the ruling Chinese Party preoccupied with a leadership succession late in 2012, Beijing has stressed its hopes for steady relations throughout this year.

Nonetheless, experts have said that China remains wary of U.S. military intentions across the Asia-Pacific, especially in the wake of the Obama administration’s vows to “pivot” to the region, reinvigorating diplomatic and security ties with allies.

The Liberation Army Daily commentary echoed that wariness.

“The U.S. strategy of returning to the Asia-Pacific carries the implication of a shift in military focus, and there is no better strategic opening than China’s sovereignty disputes with the Philippines and other countries in the South China Sea,” said the newspaper.
China has territorial disputes with the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan in the South China Sea, which could be rich in oil and gas and is spanned by busy shipping lanes. — Reuters with GMA News/ HS

By CHRIS BUCKLEY, Reuters

Thailand-China upgrades ties while Philippines spat with China worsens


China, Thailand upgrade bilateral ties, vow closer trade links

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (R) shakes hands with Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra in Beijing, capital of China, April 17, 2012. (Xinhua/Zhang Duo)

BEIJING, April 17 (Xinhua) — Premier Wen Jiabao and his Thai counterpart Yingluck Shinawatra agreed on Tuesday to upgrade bilateral relations to a “comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership.”

“Establishing the China-Thailand strategic cooperative partnership is of great significance for both countries and the peaceful development of East Asia,” Wen told Yingluck during their meeting at the Great Hall of the People.

“China hopes to enhance strategic communication with Thailand, jointly face challenges and boost cooperation in diversified areas,” Wen added.

Yingluck, who is visiting China for the first time as Thailand’s prime minister, said the creation of the partnership meets the common interests of both countries.

She vowed to facilitate stronger cooperation with China in all areas, adding that her country will play a positive role in boosting ASEAN-China cooperation and maintaining peace and stability on the South China Sea.

The Chinese premier proposed expanding bilateral trade to 100 billion US dollars annually before 2015 and enhancing cooperation in ocean, telecommunication, technology, energy and agriculture.

Wen pledged continuous support for Thailand in its post-disaster reconstruction and water conservancy following last year’s devastating flood, the worst flood to hit Thailand in nearly 50 years.

The two premiers also agreed to boost joint patrols of China, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand along the Mekong River and jointly safeguard peace and stability on the South China Sea.

Yingluck said Thailand will conclude judicial proceedings regarding the murder of Chinese crewmen on the Mekong river as soon as possible and punish the criminals involved in accordance with the law.

Two Chinese cargo ships were attacked on Oct. 5 last year, with the attackers killing 13 sailors.

After their talk, the two premiers witnessed the sealing of seven bilateral cooperation agreements on issues ranging from trade, agriculture and railways to flood and drought prevention and ocean research.

Yingluck arrived in Beijing earlier Tuesday for a three-day official visit. The first female prime minister of Thailand was accompanied by executives from about 100 Thai companies.

According to Chinese Customs statistics, China is both the largest export market and second-largest import source for Thailand. The two countries’ trade volume hit 64.7 billion U.S. dollars in 2011.

  Philippines spat with China worsens in violating maritime law

 Associated Press

BEIJING –  China said Wednesday that the Philippines is violating maritime law by claiming a shoal in the South China Sea and dismissed Manila’s request to take the dispute to an international court.

“We believe it runs counter to historical facts and violates the law,” said Liu Weimin, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry.

Philippine navy and Chinese maritime patrol vessels engaged in a standoff last week over a fishing incident near the Scarborough shoal in the South China Sea, an area both sides claim as sovereign territory.

Liu said China had “lodged solemn representations” with the Philippines and that Fu Ying, a vice foreign minister, had called in the Philippine envoy on Wednesday over the issue.

The Philippines plans to seek resolution in an international court, arguing that the shoal is well within the country’s 370-kilometer (230-mile) exclusive economic zone that is recognized under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Liu said the Philippines is violating international law by using the U.N. convention to call into question sovereignty over the territory, known as Huangyan island in Chinese.

“China has sufficient legal evidence for its jurisdiction over the Huangyan island. China was the earliest to discover (12th century) and name the island, and has included it on maps and exercised its sovereignty over it ever since,” Liu said.

Liu said that the Philippines never objected to China’s territorial control of the shoal before 1997 and that its claim now is “completely baseless.”

A Philippine government statement on Wednesday contradicted Liu’s remarks, saying it has effectively occupied and exercised jurisdiction over the shoal — which it calls Bajo de Masinloc, or Panatag shoal — for decades.

A map published in 1734 showed the shoal was part of the northwestern Philippine province of Zambales, the government said, adding that a Philippine flag and lighthouse were erected on Scarborough islets in 1965.

U.S. and Philippine warships engaged in defense exercises at the shoal when American forces maintained a naval base in Zambales, the government said. The shoal “is an integral part of the Philippine territory” and Chinese vessels in the area are committing “serious violation of the Philippines’ sovereignty and maritime jurisdiction,” it said.

The shoal is among numerous islands, reefs and coral outcrops in the South China Sea claimed by China, the Philippines and other nations for their potential oil and gas deposits, rich fishing grounds and proximity to busy commercial sea lanes.

The controversy flared on April 10 when two Chinese ships prevented a Philippine warship from arresting several Chinese fishermen who were accused of illegal entry and poaching. The fishermen slipped away from the shoal over the weekend, angering Philippine officials.

Manila lodged a protest with China on Monday, accusing one of the Chinese ships and an aircraft of harassing a Philippine-registered yacht that was conducting archaeological research in the shoal.

Liu said tensions started to ease after bilateral talks.

“We hope that the Philippines can stay with their commitment and pull back their ships as soon as possible, and resume peace and stability in waters near the Huangyan island,” Liu said.

Philippine Group Protests US-Filipino War Games


Maritime claims in the South China Sea

Maritime claims in the South China Sea (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

U.S. Plays Philippines War Games | ASEAN Beat.

Fresh from a standoff with the Chinese in the South China Sea, the Philippine government is trying to figure out how to incorporate the US in its defensive shield.

Meanwhile, the Philippine left is playing games:

Renato Reyes of the leftist group Bayan summarized the opposition to the entry of U.S. soldiers in the Philippines: “The U.S. wants it known that it is still top dog in this region, to the great dismay of many peace-loving peoples in Southeast Asia. We do not want our country to be used as a U.S. outpost and playground. We are not a laboratory for U.S. drone wars. We do not want the U.S. meddling in our internal conflicts and regional issues. We do not want the Philippines acting like the U.S. troops’ doormat in the region. We do not want U.S. troops using our country as their Rest and Recreation destination of choice.”

We’ll see what tune Mr. Reyes is playing when Luzon becomes the 32nd province of China. Or maybe he’s already cut a deal with his future overlords?

Sources: The Pacific Bull Moose 

Related posts/articles:

Tensions in South China Sea: US and Philippines Naval drills, students attack US embassy

Tensions in South China Sea: US won’t take sides, US-Philippines Naval drills,students attack US embassy


 Philippine and Chinese officials are holding talks on the stand-off at the Huangyan Island ( Scarborough Shoal)

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The Philippines and China in troubled waters

By CHOW HOW BAN, The Star

China attaches great importance to friendly ties with countries around the South China Sea but a recent altercation between Chinese fishermen and the Philippines Navy in the disputed Huangyan Island may turn into a full-scale war.

TENSION is rising in the South China Sea. China’s navy is ready to hit back if a clash between several Chinese fishing boats and a Filipino naval vessel in the waters of Huangyan Island cannot be resolved diplomatically,

Chinese patriots have been flooding the media with provocative comments stating that they are ready to go to war.

On Tuesday, the Chinese embassy in Manila received a report that the 12 Chinese fishing boats that sailed into a lagoon in Huangyan Island (or internationally known as Scarborough Shoal) to shelter from bad weather were challenged by the Warship, BRP Gregorio del Pilar.

Twelve from the navy warship, six of whom were armed, boarded the Chinese vessels and apparently harassed the fishermen. Later, two Chinese patrol ships, Haijian 75 and Haijian 84, arrived and prevented the Philippines navy from detaining the fishermen.

On Thursday, the Philippines Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario was quoted by Manila Bulletin as saying that its warship had left Scarborough Shoal back to Poro Point for refuelling and re-provision of food.

Fishing for trouble: An April 10 photo showing members of the Philippine Army inspecting one of the eight Chinese fishing boats in the Scarborough Shoal — Reuters/Philippine Army

However, the Philippines Navy Flag officer-in-command Vice-Admiral Alexander Pama said the vessel was just relieved for operational reasons and would play a supporting role until the Philippines Coast Guard took over maritime law enforcement duties.

He stressed that the departure of the Gregorio del Pilar should not be construed as a retreat on the part of the Philippines government.

In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said they had sent law-enforcement ships rather than naval ships to back up the existing patrol ships and safeguard Chinese fishermen in the area.

The Chinese government demanded that the Filipino ships leave the area as it violated China’s sovereignty over Huangyan Island.

In a counter-claim, the Philippines accused the fishermen of being there illegally, saying that the area is in its territory by virtue of it being part of its Exclusive Economic Zone as recognised by international law.

A Netizen, on a Chinese forum, said the fact that China was acting too rationally in the South China Sea dispute had led to the intemperate conduct of its rivals.

“A reminder to the Chinese government and military: 1.3 billion people have raised you all but we have lost almost all the islands in the South China Sea,” another Netizen said.

“If you cannot safeguard South China Sea, you will become the culprits in Chinese history.”

A Chinese military fan called La Te wrote in cankaoa.com that in every Chinese mind the war in the South China Sea was inevitable but the question is how to fight the battle if it did indeed takes place.

He said that among the more than 50 major islands in the Spratlys in the South China Sea, China and Taiwan had control over eight while the others were occupied by Vietnam (29), the Philippines (eight) and Malaysia (five).

Although Brunei had sent troops to Louisa Reef in 1990 before, it did not declare its sovereignty over the reef.

In its editorial, Global Times said China had never thought of resolving the South China Sea issue by force and that China had the patience to sort out the matter via negotiations.

“If the Philippines and Vietnam really want to fight this sea battle, then they should fire the first shot. China will certainly fight to the finish and give them a painful lesson of going to war with China,” the newspaper said.

China Daily said the Philippines and Vietnam had gained considerable economic benefits from the South China Sea by illegally tapping the rich deposits of oil and natural gas in the area since the late 1970s.

It said Manila and Hanoi should stop coveting interests that they are not entitled to.

“China attaches great importance to maintaining friendly ties with countries in the region, including the Philippines and Vietnam, and it has always exercised the utmost restraint as it desires a stable peripheral environment.”

Dialogue 20120416 Philippines-US war games CCTV News – CNTV English

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US and Philippines begin South China Sea drills

By Jonathan Marcus BBC Diplomatic Correspondent
Joint military exercises between the US and the Philippines are getting under way in the South China Sea, even as Manila remained locked in a stand-off with Beijing over a disputed shoal.

The annual exercises, called Balikatan, are due to run until 27 April.

This year they are taking place off Palawan, near parts of the South China Sea both Manila and Beijing claim.

Meanwhile Philippine and Chinese vessels remain at the Scarborough Shoal, a week after the deadlock began.

The Philippines said its warship found eight Chinese fishing vessels at the shoal – which both sides claim – when it was patrolling the area on 8 April.

When navy personnel boarded the Chinese fishing vessels on Tuesday they found a large amount of illegally-caught fish and coral, it said.

Two Chinese surveillance ships then arrived in the area, preventing the navy from making arrests.

Incidents in the South China Sea involving fishing boats or energy survey vessels are becoming more frequent, demonstrating the lack of any common rules of the road to resolve competing territorial claims.

China insists that its rights in areas like the disputed Spratly Islands are paramount, despite rival claims from the Philippines, Vietnam and other countries too.

The government in Manila is taking steps to modernise its small naval and air forces. But it is looking to Washington to help balance China’s growing power.

Two decades after US forces were evicted from their biggest base in the Pacific, there has been talk of a renewed US military presence. The fact that the joint exercises are being held on the island of Palawan – the closest Philippines territory to the Spratlys – will doubtless irritate China.

But the Philippines government must walk a tightrope here – China is its third largest trading partner. It wants to defend its corner but doesn’t want to provoke a crisis with Beijing.

Attempts to resolve the stand-off do not as yet appear to have been successful.

The Philippine warship has been replaced by a coast guard vessel and the Chinese fishermen are reported to have gone, but two Chinese vessels remain there and a Chinese aircraft overflew the Philippine ship on Sunday, officials in Manila said.

“The stalemate remains. Both sides are in touch with each other,” Philippine foreign ministry spokesman Raul Hernandez said in a statement on Sunday.

‘New context’

The joint exercises are taking place in a different area, to the southwest of the shoal. Some 7,000 troops will be taking part.

A Philippine military spokesman said that the exercises were unrelated to events at Scarborough Shoal.

The focus of the exercises would be on “improving security, counter-terrorism and humanitarian and disaster response”, Major Emmanuel Garcia said.

At the opening ceremony, the Philippines’ armed forces chief Jessie Dellosa hailed the joint exercise as ”timely and mutually beneficial”.

“The conduct of this annual event reflects the aspirations to further relations with our strategic ally, a commitment that has to be nurtured especially in the context of the evolving challenges in the region,” he said.

The exercises take place every year but, reports the BBC’s diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus, this year they are different because the context within which they are taking place has changed.

China’s maritime power is growing and the Philippines – along with many other small countries in the region – is worried.

It wants to bolster its own defences and underline its growing ties with Washington, our correspondent says, and the US sees these exercises as an opportunity to demonstrate its renewed interest in Pacific security.

Six countries claim competing sovereignty over areas in the South China Sea, which is believed to contain huge deposits of oil and gas.

Along with China and the Philippines, they are Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan.

China’s claim includes almost the entire South China Sea, well into what the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea recognises as the 200-mile-from-shore Exclusive Economic Zones of other claimants.

That has led to occasional flare-ups and to competition to occupy islands, reefs and sandbars.

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Filipino students attack US embassy to protest war games near South China Sea

By Associated Press

Left-wing protesters in the Philippines have splattered paint on the seal of the US Embassy to demand a pullout of American troops taking part in annual war games.

About 70 student activists took police and embassy guards by surprise early Monday when they threw blue-and-red paint at the seaside mission’s main gate and scrawled ‘US troops out now.’

They also chipped away letters from the bronze signage and burned a mock American flag.

Vandalsoutrage: Students attacked the US Embassy sign in Manila to protest war games the Filipino military is conducting with American forces

No arrests were made as protesters outnumbered police and protestors later walked away.

US and Philippine military officials say nearly 7,000 American and Filipino troops have begun two weeks of major military exercises but they stress that China is not an imaginary target.

Philippine army Maj Emmanuel Garcia said Monday that the annual drills, called Balikatan or shoulder-to-shoulder, will include combat maneuvers involving the mock retaking by US-backed Filipino troops of an oil rig supposedly seized by terrorists near the South China Sea.

US Marine Lt Col Curtis Hill says most other events will focus on humanitarian missions and disaster-response drills.

Beijing has protested military drills involving Americans near the South China Sea, where it is locked with the Philippines and four other nations in territorial rifts.

 Flag burningFlag burning: About 100 students turned out to the protest and called for an end to the military relationship between the US and the Philippines

The standoff escalated as three Chinese fishing boats and one Chinese naval vessel left the disputed area Friday.

Problems began on Sunday when Manila dispatched its largest warship, a US Hamilton-class cutter, to Scarborough Shoal, a group of rocky outcrops off the main Philippine island of Luzon, after it spotted eight Chinese fishing boats anchored in the area.

The shoal, which is crossed by major shipping lanes, is believed to be rich in oil and gas reserves as well as fish stocks and other comercially-attractive marine life.

On Friday, Philippine officials confirmed that three Chinese fishing boats had left the area, but said five other Chinese boats remained. It was unclear whether they carried illegal catches, they added.

 Damage: A student helps deface the seal outside the U.S. embassy buildingDamage: A student helps deface the seal outside the U.S. embassy building

Officials had earlier said that giant clams, coral and live sharks were illegally harvested from waters surrounding the Philippine island of Luzon.

‘We are watching five fishing vessels that are still collecting coral in that area,’ Lieutenant General Anthony Alcantara, chief of the army’s northern Luzon command, told reporters on Friday.

Asked if the three fishing vessels which left had carried illegal catches, he said: ‘I have no data on that.’

China also withdrew one of its three naval ships from the area on Friday, a day after a Philippine warship pulled out to be replaced by a coast guard vessel. Manila’s move had been interpreted as a sign that tensions were easing as diplomats rushed to find a solution to the dispute.

But on Friday the Philippine navy sent a ship into the area to back up a coast guard cutter tasked to enforce the country’s maritime laws, suggesting tensions were still high.

‘The mandate is to support our coast guard there,’ Alcantara said.

‘Our mandate is to take care of our own people there and sovereignty.’

US won’t take sides in South China Sea dispute

Updated: 2012-05-02 12:24

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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