China urged the Philippines to stop issuing “provocative” comments

Posted on July 21, 2012

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“How can they (China) claim occupation of Scarborough Shoal? Did their birds land there? Did they mark their fish there? Are these theirs? I can also draw my own map and claim their islands.” pondered Philippines Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile

China on Tuesday urged the Philippines to stop issuing “provocative” comments over the disputed Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, which Beijing claims as Huangyan Island, in the West Philippine Sea.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin made the remark Monday night after Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile dismissed China’s claim to the shoal as “legally weak.”

“We hope the Philippine side will stop making provocative will stop making provocative comments time and again to prod public opinion, and avoid complicating the situation,” Liu told the Chinese reporters in a press conference in Beijing.

In a radio interview Monday, Enrile said China’s claim was legally weak since it was relying on “mere theory” to claim sovereignty over the shoal.

“It’s simple, China’s claim is legally weak,” he said.

“How can they claim occupation of Scarborough Shoal? Did their birds land there? Did they mark their fish there? Are these theirs? I can also draw my own map and claim their islands.”

On Monday, President Benigno Aquino III said Manila would ask the United States to deploy their P3C Orion spy planes over the South China Sea to help monitor the disputed Panatag Shoal.

But Liu has repeatedly said that the tensions over the area have eased in the past weeks, and that China wants the Philippines to help calm the situation.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei expressed his “firm opposition” to the Philippines’ decision to draw a third party into the disputed shoal.

Hong said that any move by the Philippines would “further escalate the situation and even change the nature of the issue.”

“Recently, tensions over Huangyan Island have eased. We hope Philippines side would do more that helps calm the situation and boosts bilateral friendly cooperation,” Liu said Monday night.

Chinese analysts this week said the joint military exercises by American and Philippine forces would bring more uncertainty to regional ties in the wake of a standoff over a territorial dispute in the Panatag Shoal.

The exercises, scheduled from Monday to July 10 near the Mindanao Sea, began with US vessels, including the USS Vandegrift, arriving at Makar Port in General Santos City in Mindanao on Sunday, the China Daily reported.

The drill involves 450 members of the Philippine Navy and Philippine Coast Guard, and 500 staff members of the US Navy and Coast Guard.

The analysts interviewed by the China Daily said the drill would benefit Manila and help Washington shift its strategic emphasis back to the Asia-Pacific region.

“The drill shows both Washington and Manila’s will to beef up their alliance since the 1950s, and Manila has received support from Washington in various areas especially this year,” said Yang Baoyun, a professor of Southeast Asian studies at Peking University.

The US had reiterated that it does not take a position on the rival territorial claims of countries in the South China Sea, but Manila still had expressed its hope that Washington could back its claim to the Panatag Shoal, Yang said.

On April 10, a Philippine Navy gunboat stopped Chinese fishing boats who were caught poaching protected marine species. Chinese marine surveillance vessels, however, stopped the Philippines from arresting the fishermen.

The drill this week comes after Manila’s announcement on Friday that it had sent observers to the US-led Rim of the Pacific Exercises, the largest-ever naval drill in the region, involving 22 countries.

“The Philippines’ decision to join the Monday drill and its involvement in the RIMPAC are aimed at demonstrating its alliance with the US, and it is also showing off strength to China,” said Yin Zhuo, a military expert in Beijing.

Yin warned that the recent drills might widen the rift between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Washington had recently been restrained on the issues concerning Manila and the Panatag Shoal, and it also hoped to keep China-US ties stable in an election year, said Yuan Peng, an American studies expert at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.

However, the US has continued to resort to high-level consultations with Manila on regional issues after the Panatag standoff.

Senator Edgardo Angara earlier said cartography held the solution to the territorial disputes the Philippines was facing.

“Our quarrels with other nations over contested areas can be resolved through cartography, specifically ancient maps that show the full extent of our territory,” said Angara during the recent launch of an exhibit of Philippine maps at the Metropolitan Museum of Manila.

In a statement, Angara said the maps should be used as reference and proof of Manila’s ownership of the disputed territories.

Manila Standard Today

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Posted in: Politics