PH, Vietnam hit China on Spratlys
|Posted by Manila Mail under Articles/Stories|
MANILA – The Philippines and Vietnam have criticized recent Chinese incursions in the South China Sea during the security conference in Singapore June 5 even as US Secretary of State Robert Gates warned of clashes in the region.
Philippine Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin told the security forum attended by China’s Defense Minister Liang Guanglie that “actions by other states . . . unnecessarily make other states like the Philippines worried and concerned.”
Gazmin’s remarks came after Manila on Saturday accused China of undermining peace and stability in Asia by allegedly sending naval vessels to intimidate rival claimants to the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.
Manila has also queried Beijing over plans reported in Chinese state media to install an oil rig in the area.
Gazmin said that “insecurity is generated when materials for possibly constructing certain structures are found in areas where a declaration has been made to refrain from putting up such kinds of structure or infrastructure.”
He was speaking after Liang told the forum that China was committed to “peace and stability” in the South China Sea.
US Defense Secretary Robert Gates told the conference on June 4 that clashes may erupt unless nations with conflicting claims adopt a mechanism to settle disputes peacefully.
The Spratly and Paracel archipelagos, believed to hold major oil and gas reserves, are claimed in whole or in part by Brunei, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.
Vietnam’s Defense Minister Phung Quang Thanh told the Singapore meeting that “we expect China to honor the policies that they announced” and expressed hope that the statements “translate into reality.”
“I fully propose that we must exercise restraint and patience and commitment to solve these issues, these differences, by peaceful means. We must strictly observe the DOC,” he said.
The Vietnamese general was referring to the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, a pact signed in 2002 by China and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).
Asean groups Brunei Da-russalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand, Singapore and Vietnam.
The Philippines has accused China of undermining peace and stability by allegedly sending naval vessels to intimidate rival claimants.
Manila cited incidents from February to May when the Chinese Navy allegedly opened fire on Filipino fishermen, intimidated a Philippine oil exploration ship and put posts and a buoy in Philippines-claimed areas in the Spratlys.
In May, Chinese ships confronted a Vietnamese oil exploration vessel between the Paracels and Spratlys.
China, on the other hand, sought to ease fears about its military ambitions and demanded respect from the international community as smaller neighbors accused it of behaving like a bully in the South China Sea.
Liang also told the forum that “democracy in international relations” and respect for “each other’s core interests” were necessary to ensure “lasting peace, harmony and stability.”
“I know many people tend to believe that with the growth of China’s economy, China will become a military threat,” said the first Chinese defense minister to attend the annual conference called the Shangri-La Dialogue.
“I would like to say that it is not our option,” he added.
According to him, would never “seek hegemony” or threaten any country.
Despite Liang’s focus on respect and equality, his counterparts from the Philippines and Vietnam accused China of intimidating acts in the disputed Spratly and Paracel island groups.
In a 45-minute speech followed by a question-and-answer session, the Chinese defense minister warned that countries “should not engage in any alliance targeting a third party” but did not go into detail.
After long-running tensions sparked by issues such as US arm sales to Taiwan, Liang also said that “the picture of the bilateral relations between China and the United States is a good one.”
“I believe all of us are very optimistic about the future of bilateral and military-to-military relations,” he added.
Also on Sunday, several hundred Vietnamese gathered for a rare protest in front of the Chinese Embassy in Hanoi.
In Singapore, Vietnam’s Defense Minister Phung Quang Thanh urged China “to honor the policies that they announced” regarding the territorial disputes.
“I fully propose that we must exercise restraint and patience and commitment to solve these issues, these differences, by peaceful means,” Thanh said.