With the Philippine-China standoff still unresolved, the Philippine President Benigno Aquino has warned neighbouring countries of Chinese aggressiveness in the South China Sea, as the Philippines and the US conduct annual joint military exercises. The Philippines also intend to raise the dispute with US in Washington next week. Meanwhile, China has pledged strong ties with North Korea, as tensions between North and South Korea rise from the North’s failed rocket launch. The US has also questioned whether a vehicle used as a mobile missile launch vehicle in North Korea is of Chinese origin.
South China Sea: Scarborough standoff unresolved; Philippines warn neighbours of Chinese assertiveness
President Benigno Aquino on Monday warned his country’s neighbours they should be wary of China’s increasing aggressiveness over its claims in the South China Sea, as a tense 14-day high seas standoff between the Philippines and China has yet to be resolved. This also comes as the Philippines and the US hold joint annual military exercises, drawing the ire of China.
The latest incident between the Philippines and China began when a Philippine warship, during a patrol on 8th April, found eight Chinese fishing vessel s at the Scarborough shoal, claimed by both countries. When navy personnel boarded the Chinese vessels, they found a large amount of fish and coal caught illegally, according to Manila.
Two Chinese surveillance ships then arrived in the area and prevented the navy from making any arrests. Attempts to resolve the standoff have not yet been successful, and the Philippine warship has been replaced by a coast guard. The Chinese fishermen have gone but two Chinese vessels remain in the area.
China has also protested the annual US-Philippine military exercises, which are scheduled to run to 27th April. This year they are taking place off Palawan, near the Spratly islands claimed by both Manila and Beijing.
Philippine President Aquino emphasised that China’s territorial claims encompassed a large area and were getting “closer and closer” to the Philippines, and underscored that the Scarborough shoal was within the Philippines’ internationally recognised exclusive economic zone and questioned China's historical basis for its claims.
The Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert Del Rosario and Defence Secretary Voltaire Gazmin intend to formally raise the incident when they meet their US counterparts in Washington next week. This move is likely to anger China, which has called for the US to play no role in the dispute.
According to Xinhua, China’s official news agency, China had withdrawn two ships from the disputed area on Sunday, with only one vessel remaining for maritime surveillance. Xinhua also quoted a spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in the Philippines, Zhang Hua, as saying that China was attempting to defuse tensions and was “ready to settle this incident through friendly diplomatic consultations”.
Meanwhile, three US ships are also in Vietnam this week for a five-day naval exchange involving salvage and disaster training, with no live fire drills planned.
Report: Philippines warns neighbours about China (AFP, 23 Apr 2012)
Report: Manila seeks int'l support in standoff with China (AP, 23 Apr 2012)
Report: China needs 'consistent policy' on South China Sea (BBC, 23 Apr 2012)
North Korea: China pledges close ties
Chinese President Hu Jintao has pledged strong ties with North Korea, just as tensions between the North and South simmer in the wake of Pyongyang’s failed rocket launch.
President Hu’s promise came at a meeting with a Korean Workers’ Party delegation head by Kim Yong-il in Beijing on Monday, and just as North Korea ratchets up its belligerent rhetoric against South Korea.
China did not block UN condemnation of the North’s rocket launch, but during the meeting with the KWP international relations chief, President Hu underscored the close relations between the two countries.
North Korea had warned on Monday of “unprecedented” action against South Korea’s ruling administration in response to its criticism of the rocket launch. North Korea’s military said in an unusually strong statement that a special operation would “soon” begin and “reduce its targets to ashes.” North Korea often issues hostile statements directed at the South.
Meanwhile, the US has raised questions over a mobile missile launch vehicle seen in a North Korean military parade earlier in April that analysts believe may have come from China.
UN diplomats have said that the Chinese firm believed to have provided the vehicle to North Korea appears to have a press release on its website that boasts about the sale, without naming the customer. They further said that UN delegations are looking into the matter to find out if the Chinese firm, Hubei Sanjiang, might have violated the UN ban on selling North Korea technology that can support its ballistic missile program.
Washington suspects that the Chinese firm did not sell North Korea an entire vehicle, but a chassis. The firm may have believed it was for civilian purposes, implying that the company did not intentionally flout UN sanctions, according to a US official.
Hubei Sanjiang, a subsidiary of China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp, a state-owned company that manufactures rockets and missiles. Hubei Sanjiang has denied any business relations with North Korea and China says it has abided by UN sanctions against the North.
Report: China pledges North Korea ties amid rocket tensions (BBC, 24 Apr 2012)
Report: China firm boasts about missile-linked North Korea sale: envoys (Reuters, 24 Apr 2012)