Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A Further Update on the Philippine-Chinese Standoff

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 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.
China summoned a diplomat from the Philippines for a second time on Wednesday to protest Manila's claim over an area of the South China Sea, a foreign ministry spokesman said, as the standoff between the two countries showed no sign of ending.

The most recent dispute is well into its second week, with a Philippine coast guard ship and two Chinese maritime surveillance vessels faced off near the Scarborough Shoal in waters believed to be rich in oil and gas.

Vice Foreign Minister Fu Ying "urgently summoned" the Philippines Charge' d'affaires, Alex Chua, on Sunday and again on Wednesday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin told reporters.

"She pointed out that the Philippines military vessels' harassment of Chinese fishermen and fishing boats have drawn the close attention of China," Liu said.

"We hope the Philippines side will honour its commitment and withdraw its ships from the relevant waters immediately, so that the waters of Huangyan island can return to peace and stability."

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