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China seen bent on pushing 'expansion agenda'
Publication Date : 05-06-2014
Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario sees China’s “expansion agenda” in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) as the reason why it continues its “aggressive, provocative” acts and why it is does not want a legally binding Code of Conduct (COC) to be concluded.
“I’m not very optimistic about whether China is serious on an expeditious conclusion of a COC because the aggressive, provocative acts that we are seeing now is their way to pursue their expansion agenda,” del Rosario said during the sidelines of the Asia-Europe Meeting (Asem) on Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM) conference Thursday.
“Until this expansion agenda is completed, I don’t see a desire on their part to conclude the COC. You complete your expansion agenda [first] because the COC looks forward, it doesn’t look backwards,” he said.
China is involved in maritime disputes with neighboring countries Vietnam and the Philippines over the South China Sea, which is believed to hold vast reserves of oil and natural gas.
The Mabini reef in the South China Sea is the subject of reclamation efforts of China, as seen in a series of aerial photos released by the DFA. The reclamation project is “changing the feature” of the reef turning it into an island.
Nearly 90 per cent of the entire South China Sea is claimed by China through its nine-dash line, which overlaps with the Philippines 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
The Philippines has challenged this claim by filing an arbitration case before the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (Itlos), which China has refused to participate in.
China recently deployed an oil drilling rig near the Paracel islands located within Vietnam’s 200 nautical mile EEZ. Vietnam responded by sending ships to block the rigs path which resulted in clashes with the Chinese escort vessels.
Vietnam has reported that some of its ships had been sunk due to the clashes.
Philippine ships have also been involved in encounters with Chinese ships in Scarborough shoal and in Ayungin shoal. Chinese vessels have reportedly used water cannons to turn away Filipino fishermen.