THE SINO-PHILIPPINES NAVAL DISPUTE: A COMMENT
"The Philippines says it has withdrawn its largest warship from a continuing stand-off with Chinese boats in the disputed South China Sea. Earlier on Thursday a Philippine coastguard vessel arrived in the area, known as the Scarborough Shoal. The Philippines also says China has sent a third ship to the scene. The Philippine foreign minister said negotiations with China would continue. Both claim the shoal off the Philippines' north-west coast. The Philippines said its warship found eight Chinese fishing vessels at the shoal when it was patrolling the area on Sunday.
It did not say why the warship had been pulled back. "That is an operational undertaking I can't discuss with you," Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario was quoted by AFP news agency as saying. "We are pursuing the diplomatic track in terms of coming to a resolution on the issue," Mr Del Rosario said.
In a statement, the Philippines said that its navy boarded the Chinese fishing vessels on Tuesday and found a large amount of illegally-caught fish and coral. Two Chinese surveillance ships then apparently arrived in the area, placing themselves between the warship and the fishing vessels, preventing the navy from making arrests. The Philippines summoned Chinese ambassador Ma Keqing on Wednesday to lodge a protest over the incident. However, China maintained it had sovereign rights over the area and asked that the Philippine warship leave the waters. China's state-run newspaper China Daily claimed in an editorial that the Chinese fishermen were "harassed" by the Philippine ship.
"China should take more measures to safeguard its maritime territory," the newspaper stated.
"The latest moves by China's two neighbours are beyond tolerance," it added, also referring to Vietnam. "They are blatant challenges to China's territorial integrity."
However, the Global Times newspaper added that China "has the patience to work out solutions with the countries concerned through negotiation".
The stand-off comes as the Philippines prepares for joint naval exercises with the United States from the 16 to 27 April near the disputed area. Six countries claim competing sovereignty over areas in the South China Sea, which is believed to contain huge deposits of oil and gas. Along with China and the Philippines, they are Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan. China's claim includes almost the entire South China Sea, well into what the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea recognises as the 200-mile-from-shore Exclusive Economic Zones of other claimants".
"Philippines 'withdraws warship' amid China Standoff." The British Broadcasting Corporation. 12 April 2012, in www.bbc.com.
“If these countries don’t want to change their ways with China, they will need to prepare for the sounds of cannons. We need to be ready for that, as it may be the only way for the disputes in the sea to be resolved.”
"The Dragon's new teeth: a rare look inside the world's biggest military expansion."
As quoted in The Economist. 7th April 2012, in www.economist.com.
The Peoples Republic of China's repeatedly brazen and bellicose activity in the South China Seas calls for a firm and measured response by the International community, id. est., the Western Powers lead by the USA. Without seeking to merely engage in the same sort of aggressive and infantile behavior that the PRC has engaged in with its neighbors over the past half dozen years, the West, lead by the Americans needs to clearly demonstrate in a clear, transparent but direct fashion that the Peking's aggressiveness towards its weaker neighbors needs to be curbed and indeed stopped. And sooner rather than later. Left to itself, the PRC, will increasingly endeavor to employ its military strength against its weaker neighbors in the Orient. The recently announced American policy to pivot military forces and diplomatic attention from Europe and the Near & Middle East to the Orient, is a part and parcel of a response to the new environment created by the PRC's more aggressive posture. Which is not to argue, per contra, that the PRC has either the ability or even the wish to become a regional hegemonic power 1. Merely that, sans a Western-American response to repeated PRC mis-behavior in the region, that there is a danger that the PRC may inadvertently overstep certain 'lines in the sand', which may indeed cause a genuine crisis between the PRC and the West. As long as the Western powers make abundantly clear to ruling elites in Peking, that the West is indeed prepared to enforce the diplomatic and strategic 'regle de jeu', then and only then will the PRC curtail its behavior to something more reasonable. Let us endeavor to hope that the current American Administration will not forgot to draw the proper conclusions from this latest incident.
1. On this topic see: "The Dragon's new teeth, op. cit. See also an extremely interesting and sophisticated discussion of the various elements and options that the PRC elites see for the Peoples Republic as policy options vis-`a-vis the West, in: Roland Dannreuther. "China and Global Oil: vulnerability and opportunity." International Affairs. (November 2011), pp. 1345-1364.