Chinese newspaper slams Philippines, Vietnam for running to U.S. for help

Posted on July 18, 2012

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According to Liu Zongyi, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s “every topic targeted China by insinuation. It seems the US is tightening its encirclement of China. But on the other hand, we can see the weakness of the US’ ‘back to Asia’ strategy.”AFP

MANILA, Philippines—One of China’s top newspapers has assailed the Philippines and Vietnam for their alleged “attempt to grab islands and waters (in the South China Sea), which don’t belong to them by riding the back of the tiger,” apparently referring to the United States.

The Beijing-based Global Times, in a July 16 report, also said Manila and Hanoi “hope to get massive military assistance from the US, which the US can’t afford to provide.”

The report, titled “Clinton’s trip highlights weak points of US return to Asia,” was written by Liu Zongyi, a research fellow of the Center for South Asia Studies at the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies.

It noted that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “made a trip encircling China recently.”

“From Japan to Mongolia then to Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, Clinton mainly focused on three things: backing Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines in disputes with China over maritime territorial sovereignty, balancing China’s economic influence in Asian by enhancing trade and economic ties with Southeast Asian countries, and promoting support for democracy and human rights as the core of US Asian strategy while attacking China’s development model,” it said.

According to Liu, Clinton’s “every topic targeted China by insinuation. It seems the US is tightening its encirclement of China. But on the other hand, we can see the weakness of the US’ ‘back to Asia’ strategy.”

“The Obama administration’s strategy covers political and military fields, as well as trade and economy. But the strategy seemingly is gradually losing its edge,” said Liu.

From the military perspective, Liu pointed out “the US has enhanced its deployment in the Asia-Pacific region and interfered in territorial disputes between China and relevant countries. The South China Sea disputes and the Diaoyu Islands dispute have been intensified as the US wedges in. But the US aims at checking China by taking advantages of these disputes rather than directly confronting China. Getting involved in an armed conflict with China is the least desirable option.”

“Clinton’s Asian tour mainly focused on promoting trade and economic relations, catering to some Asian countries’ pleasure. The US hopes to block the economic integration of East Asia and compete with China for economic influence. But if the US could really shift its competition focus with China from the political and military fields to the economic field, this would benefit the regional stability and prosperity in East Asia,” the report said.

China “advocates establishing a new type of relationship between China and the US in which the overall pattern cannot be influenced by specific problems.”

“Avoiding conflicts is the first step. The Sino-US relationship should develop based on mutual respect, mutual promotion and peaceful competition,” Liu added.

Last weekend, the Global Times ran a report quoting Liu Weimin, a spokesperson of the Chinese foreign ministry, as having said Beijing opposed Manila’s plan to offer oil exploration contracts in the South China Sea (called by Philippines as the West Philippine Sea).

Liu said China “has repeatedly lodged representations with the Philippines for their bidding out oil exploration contracts in some of the blocks, which have violated China’s interests.”

“Without permission from the Chinese government, oil exploration activities by any country or any company in waters under China’s jurisdiction are illegal,” she also said.

Liu also called on the Philippines to make its due contribution to maintaining peace and stability in the disputed waters.

Philippines Wary of Chinese Fishing Boats Near Spratlys

Aerial view of Pagasa Island, part of the disputed Spratly group of islands, in the South China Sea located off the coast of western Philippines, file photo.

MANILA — The Philippines is expressing concern over 30 Chinese vessels that have settled near a reef among some disputed islands it partially claims in the South China Sea.  The boats arrived from Hainan province Sunday, just days after a heated regional forum that ended with no consensus over how to address territorial disputes in the region.

Chinese news agencies say the fleet of fishing vessels near Yongshu Reef is accompanied by a 3,000-ton reinforcement ship and a government vessel for protection. China Daily says this is the largest fleet out of Hainan province to go on their annual fishing excursion.

The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs reacted immediately to the reports, issuing a statement on the arrival of the boats near the reef also known as Fiery Cross Reef.

“We just want to make sure that they don’t intrude into our exclusive economic zone and that they respect our sovereign rights over the resources within our EE Zed,” Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez said, reiterating the department’s stance.

Fiery Cross Reef is about 500 kilometers west of Palawan province.  That puts it well beyond the 370 kilometers from a country’s coastline that is considered under its authority by international law.

Analyst Carl Thayer specializes in security issues in the South China Sea at the University of New South Wales at the Australia Defense Force Academy.  He calls the Philippines’ message to China “a massive response.”

“The more the Philippines stands up, the more China responds in clever ways,” Thayer said.  “The military is not involved.  The PLA is always in the background, but it hasn’t been directly involved.”

Thayer points to the result of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ regional forum in Cambodia last week as an example where China gained the upper hand without having to involve its Peoples Liberation Army.

For the first time in its 45-year history the group of 10 ASEAN countries closed a meeting without a joint statement.  According to the Philippine officials, a months-long standoff between the Philippines and China at a shoal claimed by the Philippines was discussed multiple times throughout the four-day forum.  But Secretary Albert del Rosario says the ASEAN chairman from Cambodia, an ally of China, did not want to include the issue in a joint communiqué.

“ASEAN members who are not principally involved in this just want to hang back and not get involved or actually view the Philippines as being the cause of all this rather than China, if the Philippines would just stop doing it,” Thayer explained.

Apart from the Philippines, ASEAN member states Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei have some claims in the South China Sea.  China claims practically the entire sea, which has abundant fishing, busy sea lanes and potentially vast reserves of oil and gas.

Ten years ago, ASEAN and China signed a non-binding code of conduct promising to settle differences over the sea peacefully.  But while several countries want to address disputes through multilateral talks, China prefers to deal with claimant countries one on one.

Thayer says with another six months before China’s major turnover in leadership, the country could continue to take advantage of what he calls the state of ASEAN’s “disarray.”

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