Just days after a leading Chinese general said the Philippines was facing its “last chance” to resolve disputes in the resource rich South China Sea, the two countries are locked in a potentially violent confrontation.James Hookway at The Wall Street Journal reports the Philippines’ newest and most advanced warship, the BRP Gregorio del Pilar, sped out to confront two Chinese surveillance vessels in an apparent dispute over fishing rights.
Tensions are already high in the area as China declares rights to suspected oil and gas reserves beneath the sea floor, throughout the region.
Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert Del Rosario met with Chinese Ambassador Ma Keqing and both men restated their governments’ position that the Scarborough Shoal where they’re facing off is in their own country’s territory and neither will stand down.
The Shoal is within a couple hundred miles of the Philippine coast, as shown in the map below.
While both sides say they want to defuse the situation diplomatically, it seems they’ve reached a sticking point, and neither side is prepared to budge.
“The ambassador of China took the view that they have full sovereignty over the Scarborough Shoal,” Mr. del Rosario told the Associated Press. “So, in a sense we had reached an impasse in terms of our positions. And so there’s a real challenge for us in terms of our agreement to keep on talking today.”
Photo: Wikipedia Commons
The confrontation began when the Philippines sent its newest warship, a former U.S. Coast Guard cutter to arrest the crew of several Chinese fishing boats anchored at the Scarborough Shoal.In response, China rushed two surveillance vessels to the area, stopped the arrests, and the standoff began.
The Filipino sailors who boarded the Chinese vessels found illegally collected coral and live sharks aboard one of the boats.
The confrontations are not new, but the assertive Philippine response is. According to an unnamed Philippine military official “This is part of larger pattern. These new standoffs are coming to light only because we are better positioned to stand up to China now.”
That ability comes as the U.S. renews attention on its long-time South Pacific ally, and sends much needed equipment to help it fend off Chinese assertiveness in the region, like the BRP Gregorio del Pilar facing off with China right now.
Acquiring the vessel was big news in the Philippines last summer and prompted the Inquirer Global Nation to say the vessel would help the country defend against an attack by “China’s formidable armada.”
“Imagine the Philippine David with its cutter slingshot against the China Goliath,” Rodel Rotis wrote at the time.
Photo: mango treviso
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