Beijing toughens stance on shoal

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 May, 2012, 12:00am


Beijing warned yesterday that it was ready to respond to any escalation of a tense, month-long stand-off with the Philippines at Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea in what was its toughest statement to date.

'The Chinese side has ... made all preparations to respond to any escalation of the situation by the Philippine side,' Deputy Foreign Minister Fu Ying said after summoning Alex Chua, charge d'affaires at the Philippine embassy in Beijing on Monday, the Foreign Ministry said yesterday. Fu made a 'serious representation' about the stand-off.

'It is obvious that the Philippine side has not realised that it is making serious mistakes and instead is stepping up efforts to escalate tensions,' Fu told Chua, adding 'it is hard for us to be optimistic about the situation'.

Fu's warning was followed by a strongly worded commentary on the front page of the People's Daily's overseas edition yesterday, which said: 'Although China will do its best to resolve the tension through diplomacy ... goodwill runs out when one has done all it can to meet its obligations and there is no need to tolerate any more when the situation should no longer be tolerated.'

Fu's warning came as Defence Minister General Liang Guanglie visits the United States, a key ally of the Philippines, and days after the US and China wrapped up two days of economic and strategic talks. It was the third time Fu had summoned the Philippine envoy to protest about the stand-off.

Manila said yesterday it was working to ease tensions in the area, 200 kilometres west of Luzon and known as Huangyan Island in China and Panatag Shoal in the Philippines. 'We are endeavouring to undertake a new diplomatic initiative which we hope will help the situation,' Philippine foreign department spokesman Raul Hernandez said.

The row erupted on April 8 when a Philippine warship tried to arrest the crews of Chinese fishing boats near the shoal, which is claimed by both countries. The two countries have since kept ships stationed there.

Military expert Ni Lexiong said action was unlikely. 'There is a clear trend of China becoming tougher ... but I believe China is unlikely to really take military action at this moment with its pressing domestic concerns.' Ni said, citing the leadership change as an example.

South China Sea expert Du Jifeng, of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Beijing wanted to resolve the dispute diplomatically.

Additional reporting by Raissa Robles in Manila