China warns PHL not to involve the US in Panatag Shoal dispute
China has warned the Philippines not to involve the United States in the ongoing standoff over Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal.
An article posted on the Chinese government portal Tuesday quoted Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin as saying it will do the Philippines “no good” to escalate tension in the area.
“In general, most countries will not take a stand on territory disputes between other countries ... Chinese government will continue to firmly safeguard its territory sovereignty,” he said.
The said article cited a report quoting Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez as saying Monday the Philippines may discuss the issue with the US.
Hernandez said the Philippines may formally raise the matter during “2+2” talks next week between DFA Secretary Albert del Rosario and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin for the Philippines, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta for the U.S.
Since earlier this month, the Philippines and China has been engaged in a tense standoff near Panatag Shoal after Philippine military forces spotted Chinese fishing boats with marine cargo suspected to have been caught in disputed seas.
But before the Philippine Navy ship BRP Gregorio del Pilar could arrest the fishermen, Chinese vessels blocked its path.
China also claims the shoal, which it calls Huangyan Island, as part of its territory.
The Chinese government portal article quoted Liu as saying the Philippines’ territorial claim over Huangyan Island is “groundless,” yet is the cause of the “complicated situation.”
Liu also said it will do no good for the Philippines to spread tension over Huangyan Island to the entire South China Sea, which the Philippines calls the West Philippine Sea.
The article said Liu also demanded the Philippines seriously “handle its concern, respect its territory sovereignty, and refrain from taking any actions that will escalate and complicate the issue.”
The article also revealed China wants peace, saying Liu “also said China hopes the waters around the Huangyan Island will regain peace and stability, and that Chinese fishermen's normal activities will go on undisturbed.”
Freedom of navigation
Meanwhile, Liu insisted China’s exercise of sovereignty over the area had never impeded freedom of navigation in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea).
He was referring to reports quoting del Rosario as saying that with China claiming almost everything in the South China Sea, the message is they “can set the rules for anybody.”
“There have been no problems concerning freedom of navigation in the South China Sea. China has long been exercising sovereignty over Huangyan Island and that has never and will be impossible to impact freedom of navigation in the region,” Liu said.
But he said it is the Philippines that sent warships to the area and forcibly boarded Chinese fishing ships for inspection, which led to the tension.
"PHL did not dispute China’s sovereignty until 1997"
Also, Liu said the Philippines never disputed China’s sovereignty over the area until 1997.
He said international law was violated when the Philippines misinterpreted the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and used the concept of a “200-nautical-mile Exclusive Economic Zone” to undermine the territory sovereignty of China over the disputed area.
“The international principles were enacted by all participant countries, and should be observed by all parties, no matter big or small, he urged, adding that the public can tell right from wrong,” the article on the Chinese government portal said. –KG/HS, GMA News