Beijing rejects island dispute comments
Beijing on Tuesday criticized Manila’s attempt to expand the Huangyan Island dispute over the entire South China Sea and rejected Manila’s accusation over the freedom of navigation.
Huangyan Island has been an integral part of China’s territory since ancient times, and the Philippines’ groundless claim over the island’s sovereignty is “the fundamental cause” of the complicated situation, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said.
His remarks were made in response to Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario, who accused China on Monday of “claiming virtually the entire South China Sea”.
“Expanding the Huangyan Island dispute to involve the entire South China Sea makes no sense,” Liu said at a daily news conference.
Also on Monday, the foreign secretary said “the message is” that China “can set the rules for anybody”.
“I think the current standoff is a manifestation of a larger threat to many nations,” del Rosario told ABS-CBN TV network in an interview.
Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez also said that China is posing “a potential threat to freedom of navigation as well as unimpeded commerce in the area”.
Beijing on Tuesday responded that freedom of navigation in the South China Sea “has never been an issue”, and China’s long-term exercise and protection of sovereignty over the island “has never and will not influence” freedom of navigation in the waters.
On the contrary, Manila’s recent decision to send a warship to the island and dispatch personnel for a forced inspection of Chinese fishing boats triggered the existing tension, said the Chinese spokesman.
“Manila’s moves unavoidably gave rise to massive concerns over security in the related waters,” Liu added.
Yang Baoyun, a professor of Southeast Asian studies at Peking University, said Manila’s current remarks and stances “show few signs of sincerity” to resolve the dispute.
No country is allowed to misuse international laws to serve its interest, Yang said, adding that Manila did not lay territorial claim to the island until 1997.
Hernandez also said on Monday that Manila planned to exchange views with Washington on the island dispute during the upcoming “2+2” US-Filipino talks, scheduled to start on Monday.
“Generally, a country does not take sides on other countries’ sovereignty disputes. And we have noticed that none of the other countries has taken sides on the issue,” said Liu, the spokesman.
Manila’s standoff against Beijing in the waters of Huangyan Island entered its fifteenth day on Tuesday.
On April 10, 12 Chinese fishing boats were harassed by a Philippine warship while taking refuge from harsh weather in a lagoon near the island. Two Chinese patrol ships in the area later came to the fishermen’s rescue, and the warship left.
The Chinese fishermen returned home, but the standoff remains. There were still two Philippine vessels and one Chinese ship in the waters on Tuesday.
Xinhua News Agency on Monday reported that two Chinese vessels, a Fishery Administration ship and a Chinese Maritime Surveillance ship, left the area on Sunday.
“The withdrawal of the two ships proves once again that China is not escalating the situation as some people said, but de-escalating the situation,” said Zhang Hua, spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in the Philippines.
China is ready to settle this incident through friendly diplomatic consultations, Zhang added.