TWO Chinese vessels harassed a fishing vessel which was carrying journalists, soldiers and supplies for troops stationed at Ayungin Shoal in the West Philippine Sea, the military reported on Saturday.
The Department of Foreign Affairs condemned the harassment made by the Chinese vessels and reiterated that the Ayungin Shoal, also known as Second Thomas Shoal, is part of the Philippine continental shelf where Manila has sovereign rights and jurisdiction.
“We condemn the harassment by the Chinese coast guard of our civilian vessels which are on their way to Ayungin shoal to resupply provisions to our personnel stationed there,” DFA spokesman Charles Jose said a day after Chinese President Xi Jinping said China would not act aggressively over territorial claims in the West Philippine Sea.
Marine Lt. Cherryl Tindog, spokeswoman of the military’s Western Command, said the Philippine fishing vessel was carrying journalists, soldiers and fresh supplies for Marines garrisoned at the shoal where the BRP Sierra Madre has been grounded since 1999.
But the Philippine vessels “were able to pass through the Chinese coast guard vessel and the mission is a success... We have successfully re-supplied and rotated the troops,” Tindog said.
Tindog said the Philippine Marines have station troops at Ayungin Shoal since 1999, four years after China built structures in nearby Panganiban Reef, also known as Mischief Reef.
Ayungin Shoal is about 125 miles from Palawan and about 683 miles from the nearest Chinese land mass.
China had never sought to block the Philippines from re-supplying or rotating its soldiers at the shoal until this month when the Philippines tried to re-supply the garrisoned Marines on March 9.
The Chinese vessels harassed the fishing boat a day after Chinese President Xi Jinping said in a speech in Berlin that China would not act aggressively in the South China Sea, or the West Philippine Sea.
“On the issue of the South China Sea, we will not provoke trouble ourselves but we will not fear troubles provoked by others either,” Li said. “When it comes to our sovereignty and territorial integrity we will strongly safeguard these interests.”
China claims most, if not all, of the South China Sea, through its so-called nine-dash line, which vaguely asserts control, access and sovereignty over 1.4 million square miles of islands.
But most countries, including the US, has officially gone on record saying that the nine-dash line is not in accordance with existing international law.
China’s claims over islands, reefs and atolls in the South China Sea has sparked often-heated disputes with the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Taiwan and Malaysia. China’s claim over islands in the East China Sea has also prompted protests from Japan.
At the same time, the Philippines and Japan has begun unprecedented talks on security cooperation with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Benigno Aquino III agreeing last July “to cooperate in advancing our common advocacy for responsible action from international players.”
“We believe that it can be done by upholding the rule of law in international affairs, and by finding just and peaceful solutions to our territorial disputes and maritime concerns—so that we may create a secure and stable environment that leads to our collective progress,” Aquino said when Abe visited the Philippines in July.
Japan had earlier donated several patrol vessels for the Philippine Coast Guard and provided communication systems for their use. Abe’s gesture was widely greeted with approval from Filipinos who perceive Beijing’s actions as “bullying.”
But Abe again Last Friday, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said China’s actions in the East and South China Sea can be likened to Russia’s controversial annexations of the Crimea. The analogy prompted China’s Foreign Ministry on Friday to issue an angry rebuttal.
“[Abe] hypocritically pledged to improve China-Japan relations while speaking ill of China in the international community,” said Hong Lei, referring to Abe raising the two countries’ territorial disputes during a discussion on Crimea at the G7 meeting in the Hague earlier this week.
“His words again exposed his intention to confuse the public and defame China. However, this cannot deceive the international community,” Hong said in a regular press briefing.
The spokesman accused Japan of “illegally stealing” China’s Diaoyu Islands and “breaking the status quo of shelving disputes.”
Hong said that China’s stance on the South China Sea and East China Sea is clear and consistent. China has unswerving will to safeguard its national sovereignty and territorial integrity, while it will always stand for dialogue and consultation to control and solve disputes, he added.
Beijing slammed Abe ahead of the visit of United States Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel who will meet with defense leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Honolulu next week.
Accoring to the US government-run Voice of America, Hagel will also visit Japan, Mongolia and China after the meeting in Hawaii.
Discussions with ASEAN leaders are expected to focus on regional alliances and methods for resolving territorial disputes by addressing China’s long-standing claim to the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, the Voice of America quoted Pentagon officials added. With AFP
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