• Thu
  • Jul 24, 2014
  • Updated: 12:35pm
NewsAsia
SOUTH CHINA SEA

Beijing laying a trap for the Philippines in South China Sea, say experts

Beijing is laying a trap for the Philippines in disputed waters, experts say, waiting for an excuse to seize territory in the oil-rich Spratlys

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 02 April, 2014, 9:48pm
UPDATED : Friday, 04 April, 2014, 5:22pm

With tension running high between the Philippines and China because of their maritime dispute, one wrong move could see Beijing grabbing all the disputed islands, say regional experts.

"The danger really is a short, sharp conflict due to miscalculation," said Chito Santa Romana, former ABC News Beijing bureau chief who was once shortlisted to become Manila's ambassador to China. "The margin of error for our forces is really very small."

The danger really is a short, sharp conflict due to miscalculation. The margin of error for our forces is really very small
Chito Santa Romana, former ABC News Beijing bureau chief 

Speaking at a forum yesterday on "Understanding 21st century China", Santa Romana warned the Philippines should be wary of China's "cabbage" [encirclement] strategy.

"The idea is for us to make a mistake - to ram their ship, to arrest a fisherman, to fire at a fisherman - if we do any of those, I think we lose an island," he said.

"If we make another mistake, I think the Chinese will continue to probe the weak spots, and if they can achieve it, they would want to control all the disputed islands before a decision [by the arbitration committee on the law of the sea] is made. So even if they lose the case, there is nothing more to talk about."

On Saturday, the Philippine military used a small supply vessel to evade larger Chinese coast guard ships blockading a tiny Filipino garrison on the Second Thomas Shoal.

The shoal is part of the Spratlys, a chain of islets that sit near key shipping lanes, surrounded by rich fishing grounds that are believed to lie atop huge oil and gas reserves. A small number of Philippine soldiers are stationed on a navy vessel that was grounded there in 1999 to assert the Philippines' sovereignty.

Marwyn Samuels, a China specialist from Syracuse University who has been a visiting professor at Beijing, Tsinghua and Nanjing universities, said Chinese efforts to block Philippine supply ships could be dangerous.

"Too much of this is not easily predictable, accidents will happen, somebody will make the wrong move at the wrong moment and that's going to escalate, so yes, it's worrisome," he said.

He pointed out that while China has the military advantage, "from a political point of view it's difficult [for China], because of the Americans".

Manila and Washington are poised to sign an agreement that will increase the US military presence in the Philippines.

Beijing's efforts to block the supply ships has stirred anger in the Philippines. A brief rally was held by left-wing activists yesterday in front of the Chinese consulate in Manila to protest "the harassment" by Chinese coast guard ships of the Philippine resupply ship.

About 60 members of the Akbayan political party, which is part of the ruling coalition, carried a mock yellow tape measure during the protest, yelling "China do you know how to measure?"

At a meeting of senior Asean officials in Myanmar that ended on Monday, Philippine foreign undersecretary Evan Garcia stressed the importance of a code of conduct in the South China Sea after Manila filed a case with the UN on Sunday challenging Beijing's claim to most of the disputed waters.

He told the forum yesterday that the Philippine filing "manifested our commitment to a peaceful and durable means towards a lasting solution to the disputes in the South China Sea anchored on the rule of law."

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whymak
Just want to clear the air with my response to a reader below. I strongly disapprove and condemn any racist diatribes against the Filipino people, among whom are some of my friends and acquaintances.
whymak
justice_first:
You're perfectly correct. All the territories west of Mississippi River were stolen from Mexico. The decline of Mexico contributed to the rise of the US. The rest of the territories were all stolen from the indigenous Indians.
If you ever visit some Indian reservations and watch the despair, destitution, drunken stupor and hopelessness, you will understand the new meaning of human rights in world's most powerful democracy.
Of course, China has its share of problems with minorities. Yet Tibetans, Uighurs in this authoritarian nation all enjoy large measures of affirmative action and fair deal. In "race" riots, it's minorities killing the Hans, but not the other way around. Compare China regional disturbance to race riots in the US cities during the 60s, where blacks were targets of extreme violence by police and national guards.
America slaughtered at least tens of thousands to colonize Philippines and finally decided Filipinos were not worth buying and keeping. If Aquino and company had done something worthwhile lately, it's in their dubious effort in the UN, which raises the market value of Philippines in the eyes of US foreign policy wonks. Philippines is now worth a pawn or two in the US pivot to Asia strategy in a high stakes geopolitical game.
How About
This is a no brainer, historical take- the Chinese were already in the Paracel Islands 800 years ago. And they were declared part of China's Guangdong province in 1900s before the existence of the League of Nations. China also named one of Spratly island in 1946 and UN did not object. After the Japanese left, no one made any claims to these islands except for China. Up till then the nations surrounding the South China Seas, or their colonisers made NO claims to the islands. UNCLOS I was still being drafted
.
So they are China's.
Ahh the new claimant nations all cry foul. So isn't the next best thing to sit down and talk how to deal with it with China, as China suggested all along?
.
lms
The Philippines should continue to claim what is legitimately the Philippines. I understand that China has to feed its own people but the Philippines also has to feed its millions. China does not want to abide with UNCLOS (United Nations Convention On Law Of The Sea) because they know they will lose unless UNCLOS is swayed by big power politics. China wants bilateral agreement because they are stronger than the smaller nations. Senator Angara has maps showing that the area belongs to the Philippines when Spain ceded the Philippines to the US. India does not claim that they own everything in the Indian Ocean. Why is China claiming they own everything in the China Sea (West Philippine Sea)?
wei.j.pan.9
Some experts !
fayefaye528@yahoo.com
You people are a bunch of GREEDY evils ! Stop the fantasy of stealing China's historic islands from China !
.
JMCs.Watch.Collection
you claim ur historic islands in history books not in the Philippines. Or better yet claim it elsewhere in other planet If u greedy bully don't know how to obey international laws of which ur country is a signatory.
lenard.seville
French and Europeans experts in foreign policies and politics have argue that U shape line"
also known as 9-dashline, draw by china over east and south china sea has no legal basis, according to a conference in France last month.
The event, organized by the institute of international and strategic relation (IRS) and Gabriel Peri foundation, a reputable research organization in political issues.
China sea was given by the English navigator centuries ago during their expedition to discover land. It is ambiguous, this term does not match the current geopolitical situation and create the empression that this maritime area belongs to China, but such empression is completely wrong.
Legal experts at the workshop criticizing china's claims, law professor David Scott of Brunel University(UK) said : when presenting the U shape to the UN, China want to formalize and legitimize it's sea demands. But at the same time china refuse to give technical evidence for the U shape map,
China refused to comply with UNCLOS and do not want to bring the disputes with neighboring countries like the Philippines and to any international institution...
Check" 9-dashline no basis:www.monre.govvn/v35/default
lenard.seville
China's Xi should be thinking about Merkel's gift ! (old map of China 1697-1782)
Chancellor Merkel gave an old map of China' Xi Jinping that does not include Tibet Lower Mongolia, Manchuria, Taiwan and SPRATLY.
An antique map of China gifted by the German Chancellor to China's President is at odds with how china view's it's historical boundaries.
A perfect gift for a dignitary, right ?....
justice_first
Before 1783, the USA did not exist as a country. There was no such country as the USA before its independence in 1783. After 1783, its territories continue to grow substantially, with states joining the union, and with lands acquired from other countries. Nothing stays the same.
Historic maps (of different eras) certainly indicate vividly the "evolution" or dynamic nature of a country's international boundaries. This process is continuing even today. Old or historic maps are part of a country's history. They are for historians to study and to use for basis of certain arguments. Philippines has it own maps at the time of its independence, and they did not include any islands and reefs in the South China sea.

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