By Jerry EsplanadaPhilippine Daily Inquirer/Asia News NetworkTuesday, Jun 19, 2012
China has no immediate plans of pulling out its vessels at Scarborough Shoal in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), the Chinese Embassy said Monday.
In a text message to the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Zhang Hua, spokesperson and deputy chief of the political section of the Chinese Embassy, said Beijing had not expressed any intention of withdrawing its service ships from Scarborough Shoal, which both China and the Philippines claim.
Contrary to Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario’s statement to reporters on Friday, China did not commit to withdraw its seven vessels from the shoal.
“There is no such commitment from China,” Zhang said.
In Beijing, Hong Mei, spokesperson for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, wondered “where the so-called commitment the Philippine side mentioned on China’s withdrawal of vessels came from.”
Hong said China hoped “the Philippine side can restrain their words and behavior and do workings conducive to the development of the bilateral relations” between the two countries.
China, Hong said, “will continue to maintain administration and vigilance” over Scarborough Shoal, which Beijing refers to as Huangyan Island. Manila calls it Panatag Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc.
But more than 20 Chinese fishing boats stationed at the shoal’s lagoon are withdrawing because of bad weather, according to an advisory issued by the salvage and rescue unit of China’s Ministry of Transport on Sunday.
Raul Hernandez, spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), said Monday night that China’s announcement of the pullout was “consistent with our agreement with the Chinese government on the withdrawal of all vessels from the shoal’s lagoon to defuse tensions” in the area.
Two Philippine vessels had been facing off with seven Chinese government vessels at the shoal since April 10 after Philippine authorities caught Chinese fishermen poaching for sharks and collecting rare clams and corals in the area.
Both asserting sovereignty over the shoal, the two countries had refused to budge.
The shoal is within the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines, which has proposed to bring the dispute to the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea for settlement.
China, which claims the entire West Philippine Sea, has refused and tried to apply an economic squeeze to force the Philippines to yield.
It has suspended Chinese tours to the Philippines and tightened inspection rules for fruit imports from the Philippines.
Though indirectly, the United States has weighed in, announcing two weeks ago details of a new military strategy that would see 60 per cent of US naval assets moving to the Asia-Pacific region before the end of the decade, and announcing assistance for the modernization of the Philippine military.
President Benigno Aquino traveled to Washington last week and had discussions with US President Barack Obama, who stressed the importance of the US-Philippine Mutual Defense Treaty and renewed US pledges of helping the Philippines update its defenses.
Original post: China ships stay in Scarborough Shoal – AsiaOne(source)
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