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Beijing strengthens alert off island

Publication Date : 25-05-2012


Beijing yesterday warned that Manila's recent provocations have forced Beijing to strengthen the level of alert in the waters off Huangyan Island and doubt its sincerity in seeking a proper solution to the island impasse.

The Philippines urged China to withdraw vessels from the island and increased its effort to drag third parties into the island standoff, which began on April 10 when a Philippine warship harassed Chinese fishermen in the waters off the island.

Philippine Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez on Wednesday demanded that China immediately withdraw vessels from the waters around the island.

According to Hernandez, the Philippines has raised its seventh diplomatic protest against China since the start of the island impasse.

The Philippine side is still taking provocative actions in the related waters, which "forced China to strengthen its alert on the site", Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said at a daily news conference yesterday, in response to Hernandez's statement.

Hong stressed that the Chinese public service ships currently in the waters are providing services and administration to the Chinese fishing boats. The waters have been a traditional fishery of Chinese fishermen for generations.

After the April 10 incident, China lodged several representations to the Philippine side, urging the Philippines to withdraw its ships from the waters around the island.

"China urged the Philippines to pay due respect to China's sovereignty, stop further provocations and demonstrate tangible sincerity to embark on diplomatic dialogue with China," Hong said.

Meanwhile, Manila has recently attempted to involve third parties, including the United States and United Nations, in the situation, which was firmly opposed by Beijing earlier in the week and is believed to be leading to further escalation.

Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario on Wednesday told the UN General Assembly that the Philippines will continue to pursue "mediation" to resolve its "territorial dispute" with China, the Philippine Star newspaper reported yesterday.

"Mediation and other third party mechanisms" are what Manila is pursuing to resolve its conflicting claims, according to the secretary's statement delivered before the General Assembly's High Level Meeting.

Although Washington in early May publicly refused to take a stand on the island impasse, the Philippines said recently that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defence Secretary Leon Panetta had pledged to honour the 1951 Mutual Defence Treaty.

Bonnie Glaser, Asia-Pacific security expert at the centre for Strategic and International Studies, told China Daily that the treaty, signed in 1951, predated the Philippines' claims in recent years to those particular reefs and shores in the South China Sea.

"The wording is somewhat ambiguous, and more importantly the statements made by the US officials are ambiguous," said Glaser, indicating that the US sees the ambiguity as serving its interests.


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