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Japan on China's floating barrier: We oppose any actions that increase tensions in the SCS

The Japanese government called out China after it installed a floating barrier in Scarborough Shoal, which it said could "increase tensions" in the South China Sea (SCS).

In a statement provided by the Embassy of Japan in the Philippines on Monday, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said they are monitoring with “concern” the activities of China in the area.

“As for the installation of floating fences in the waters around Scarborough Shoal, Japan strongly opposes any actions that increase tensions in the SCS. We are closely monitoring China's activities in the SCS with concern,” he said.

“Issues surrounding the SCS are directly connected to regional peace and stability, and are a legitimate concern of the international community, including Japan," he added.

"Japan strongly opposes any actions that increase tensions in the SCS.”

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) on Sunday reported that the China Coast Guard (CCG) installed a floating barrier in the southeast portion of Bajo de Masinloc or Scarborough Shoal.

This prevented Filipino fishermen from entering the area.

“Three (3) CCG’s Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats (RHIBs) and Chinese Maritime Militia’s service boat installed the floating barrier upon arrival of the BFAR vessel in the vicinity of the shoal,” the PCG said.

“It was reported by the Filipino fishermen that the CCG vessels usually install floating barriers whenever they monitor a large number of Filipino fishermen in the area,” it added.

Matsuno cited the joint statement of Japan and the Philippines in February as well as the trilateral talks between Japan, the United States, and the Philippines in expressing commitment to “a free and open international order based on the rule of law”.

“There is a strong commitment to maintaining and strengthening a free and open international order based on the rule of law,” he said.

“To this end, we will work closely with the Philippines while cooperating with the United States,” he added.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said China installed the barrier to prevent a Philippine Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources vessel from supposedly trespassing into Scarborough Shoal.

"On September 22, without China’s permission, a ship of the Philippine Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, trespassed into the waters near Huangyan Island, and attempted to intrude into the lagoon of Huangyan Island," Wang said in Beijing.

"China’s coast guard took the necessary measures to stop and warn off the ship in accordance with the law, which was professional and with restraint," he added.

The PCG on Monday said it has removed the dangerous floating barrier in a special operation.

Tarriela said, "The decisive action of the PCG to remove the barrier aligns with international law and the Philippines’ sovereignty over the shoal."

Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo also said that the removal of China's floating barrier in Scarborough Shoal is consistent with the Philippines’ position on the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

“Technically, since we have a right to practice our sovereignty and our sovereign rights, so it would have been consistent with our position, but we're still waiting for the full report [on its removal],” Manalo said in an interview with Senate reporters.

An arbitral tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, which invalidated China’s sweeping claims over the South China Sea, ruled that no country can claim sovereign rights over the shoal, saying it is a traditional fishing ground for Filipino, Vietnamese, and Chinese fishermen.

It also ruled that Beijing violated the rights of Filipinos, who were blocked by the Chinese Coast Guard from fishing in the disputed shoal off northwestern Philippines.

China has refused to recognize the ruling. —VAL, GMA Integrated News