China Asks Manila to Withdraw Ships from Shoal

A protest demanding that Beijing immediately pulls out from the Scarborough Shoal in front of the Chinese consular office in Manila on April 16. (Photo: Reuters)

MANILA, Philippines―China asked the Philippines on Tuesday to withdraw a coast guard ship and an archaeological research vessel from a disputed shoal and ignored a Philippine proposal to bring the problem to a UN-linked tribunal for arbitration.

China and the Philippines have agreed to settle the dispute diplomatically but have both insisted on their ownership of Scarborough Shoal, prolonging an eight-day standoff on the high seas. Two Chinese surveillance ships have been facing off with a Philippine coast guard vessel in the area since last week.

Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario asked China to bring the dispute to the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea for arbitration. The Chinese Embassy, however, ignored the proposal on Tuesday and asked the Philippines to withdraw its vessels from the shoal “and restore peace and stability there.”

The horseshoe-shaped shoal is among the barren islands, reefs and coral outcrops in the South China Sea which have been disputed by China, the Philippines and four other nations for their potential oil and gas deposits, rich fishing grounds and proximity to busy commercial sea lanes.

Although claimant countries have pledged to settle the territorial rifts peacefully, the disputes have erupted in violence in the past, including in 1988 when China and Vietnam clashed in the Spratly Islands in a confrontation that killed 64 Vietnamese soldiers. Many fear the disputes could become Asia’s next flash point for armed conflict.

Vietnam held a maritime ceremony on Monday near the area where the incident occurred to remember the dead soldiers, state-controlled media reported.

On Tuesday, the US Embassy in Hanoi announced a five-day naval exchange later this month with Vietnam. No live-fire drills will occur, but the two sides will cooperate in areas such as salvage and disaster training as they have done in recent years.

Several rounds of talks have failed to end the impasse at Scarborough, which began April 10 when two Chinese ships prevented a Philippine warship from arresting several Chinese fishermen who were accused of illegal entry and poaching. The fishermen slipped away from the shoal over the weekend, angering Filipino officials.

The Philippines lodged another protest with China on Monday, accusing one of the Chinese ships and an aircraft of harassing a Philippine-registered yacht to force it to leave the Scarborough area. Several French and Filipinos were on the yacht, which has been conducting archaeological research in the shoal, Philippine Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez said.

The Philippines says the uninhabited shoal, which it calls Panatag, lies 143 miles from its Zambales province and is well within the country’s 230-mile exclusive economic zone that is recognized under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). China’s nearest territory to the shoal, Hainan province, is 542 miles away, Filipino officials say.

Chinese Embassy spokesman Zhang Hua acknowledged the UNCLOS allows countries to claim such exclusive economic zones but said they could not exercise sovereignty on areas within those waters that are owned by other countries. An ancient Chinese shipwreck can be found off Scarborough, which China calls Huangyan, but the Philippine research ship has no right to salvage it, Zhang said.

“We urge the archaeological vessel leave the area immediately,” Zhang said in a statement.

5 Responses to China Asks Manila to Withdraw Ships from Shoal

  1. ASEAN has to make a united stand against this neighbourhood bully. Hu Jintao was recently in Cambodia just before the ASEAN meeting to split up ASEAN countries in order to deal with Vietnam and Philippines separately about these preposterous Chinese claims in the so-called “South Chine Sea”, because they want to exploit all natural resources in Southeast Asia, like the way they are doing it in Burma and Laos. Divide and conquer is the typical strategy employed by this neo-colonial power.

    • tocharian, let me point out what u are wrong.
      “South China Sea” is officially called by UN not China alone.
      “Divide and rule” is originated by English whose language u are using in your whole life.

      • So just because it’s called South China Sea doesn’t mean that China owns it. India doesn’t own the Indian Ocean. Just imagine Bangladesh claiming all the islands (some of them belonging to Burma) in the Bay of Bengal just because it’s called the Bay of Bengal. That’s what’s China is trying to do). Just look at the map how close Scarborough Shoals is to the Philippines. Divide and Rule is an English expression, but just read Sun Tzu or Mao Tsetung. They like to talk about “let the barbarians fight each other” etc. which is the same.
        By the way, I spent 21 years of my life in Burma and English is not the only language I speak!

        • when china had battle ships what did the philipines have? please.china charted the whole seas and rightly so calls that part of the ocean SOUTH CHINA SEA.. get it? Now phillipines is just another yes-man for USA having been colonized and figures it can control the rise of china..china is peaceful but countries such as yours prefer to play fire by being a lackey for the US or Britain.. divide and rule sounds more like divide Asia and rule your country! Wake up

          • You are but a Wu-Mao-dang brainwashed by Chinese propaganda (why do you think Bo Guagua snd Xi Mingze are studying at Harvard (USA) if China is so great such hypocrites! LOL) By the way, I live in the West and I teach a lot of Chinese students who ask me for reference letters so that they can stay in the West. They don’t want to go back to China. Shall I tell them to go back to China? (haha). People in Southeast Asia might be afraid of the Chinese but don’t expect Chinese to be loved. They are hated in most parts of the world!

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