Sea Dispute China Sends Fresh Warning To Philippines

Chinese Foreign Minister, Wang Yi has sent a warning to Manila asking them to ‘act with caution’ over the keenly-contested South China Sea as his Philippines counterpart Enrique Manalo noted the need for dialogue between the two countries.

Manila has accused the Chinese Coast Guard of taking dangerous actions against Filipino boats during routine resupply missions to sailors on the Sierra Madre, which was grounded there in 1999. This has led to an increase in tension between Beijing and Manila over the waterway in recent months, especially in the Scarborough Shoal and Second Thomas Shoal.

Manila has lodged dozens of diplomatic protests over China’s behaviour and earlier this month, summoned the Chinese ambassador after a collision between Chinese and Filipino vessels.

Wang and Manalo spoke by phone on Wednesday with China’s Foreign Ministry releasing a five-paragraph readout of the discussions – noting that Manalo had talked about Manila’s views on Second Thomas Shoal – but alleged that any spike in tensions was Manila’s fault.

‘The root cause is that the Philippines has changed its policy stance so far, reneged on its commitments, continued to provoke and cause trouble at sea, and undermined China’s legitimate and legitimate rights,’ the statement said. ‘China-Philippines relations are at a crossroads. Faced with the choice of where to go, the Philippines must act with caution.’

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Second Thomas Shoal lies about 195km (121 miles) from the western Philippine island of Palawan and more than 1,000km (621 miles) from China’s southern Hainan island.

Beijing seized Scarborough Shoal from Manila after a months-long standoff in 2012. The shoal lies about 220km (137 miles) off the coast of the Philippines and falls within its exclusive economic zone (EEZ), according to international maritime law.

In a brief statement, Manalo described the call with Wang as a ‘frank and candid exchange’.

‘We ended our call with a clearer understanding of our respective positions on a number of issues,’ he said in the statement. ‘We both noted the importance of dialogue in addressing these issues.’

China claims almost the entire South China Sea under its so-called nine-dash line.

After the Scarborough Shoal incident, Manila took its case to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague.

The court ruled in 2016 that China’s claims had no legal basis but Beijing has ignored the ruling, doubling down on its claim by building artificial islands, establishing military installations and deploying its coast guard, maritime militia and commercial fishing fleet to the waters.

Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam also claim parts of the sea and the latter two have also reported incidents with Chinese vessels.

Africa Today News, New York

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