China, Thailand upgrade bilateral ties, vow closer trade links
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
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.