"There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with
power to endanger the public liberty." - - - - John Adams

Monday, June 6, 2011

Philippines says China undermining regional peace

The Philippines accused China on Saturday of undermining peace and stability in Asia by allegedly sending naval vessels to intimidate rival claimants in disputed sections of the South China Sea.

Manila had protested over incidents in February-May, when the Chinese navy allegedly opened fire on Filipino fishermen, intimidated a Philippine oil exploration ship and put posts and a buoy in Philippine-claimed areas.

The Chinese Navy destroyer Qingdao

'The Philippines noted that these actions of Chinese vessels hamper the normal and legitimate fishing activities of the Filipino fishermen in the area and undermines the peace and stability of the region,' Manila said.

'The actions of the Chinese vessels in Philippine waters are serious violations of Philippine sovereignty and maritime jurisdiction,' added a statement issued by the foreign department.

Manila had also earlier queried Beijing over plans reported in Chinese state media to install an oil rig in the area.

China’s development of modern naval vessels and anti-ship missiles has heightened concerns among the U.S. and regional states with competing territorial claims in the South China Sea, one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes. At stake is control of energy deposits below the waters that companies including Exxon Mobil Corp., Talisman Energy Inc. and Forum Energy Plc have signed deals to explore.

Vietnam said Chinese vessels on May 26 sliced cables of a survey ship with Vietnam Oil & Gas Group, or PetroVietnam, a move that sparked a demonstration of several hundred people in Hanoi yesterday. The Philippines protested Chinese ships moving into waters it claims last month and chasing away a Forum Energy survey vessel in March.

“We truly expect no repetition of similar incidents,” Vietnam Defense Minister Phung Quang Thanh said yesterday, flanked by counterparts from the Philippines and Malaysia at the annual IISS Asia Security Summit: The Shangri-La Dialogue. Vietnam’s purchase of six Russian submarines was in part designed as “a deterrent to those who have an intention to compromise and impair Vietnamese sovereignty,” Thanh said.

China claims “indisputable sovereignty” over much of the South China Sea, including oil and gas fields more than three times further from its coast than they are from Vietnam. Exploration in waters under China’s jurisdiction infringes its “sovereignty and interests and is illegal,” the Foreign Ministry in Beijing said May 12.

Competing territorial claims over the South China Sea
and its resources are numerous.

Vietnam’s domestic gas demand is set to triple by 2025, according to World Bank estimates, increasing the need to drill. The Philippines will boost hydrocarbon reserves by 40 percent in the next 20 years to reduce its reliance on imports, according to an energy department plan. China’s oil reserves have shrunk almost 40 percent since 2001 as the economy grew 10.5 percent a year on average, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“Incidents will likely increase over the next few years” as China boosts the number of maritime surveillance vessels operating in the sea, said Gary Li, an analyst with Exclusive Analysis Ltd., a London-based business advisory firm. “We’re very likely to see a much more aggressive patrolling of the area” by China.

The Chinese embassy in Manila on Thursday denied that Chinese naval vessels had intruded on Philippine territory, while reiterating Beijing's territorial sovereignty over the disputed South China Sea areas.

Malaysia says:  Can't we all just get along

Asian countries shouldn't have to choose between being allies of the US or China and must avoid another Cold War-style polarization in the region, Malaysia's prime minister said on Friday.

Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak
  Asia should foster cooperation between the US, the world's military superpower, and emerging power China in order to tackle regional security problems such as human trafficking, terrorism, drug smuggling and nuclear proliferation, Najib Razak said in Singapore at the IISS Shangri-La Dialogue, a regional security conference.
'China is our partner and the US is also our partner,' Mr Najib said in a speech. 'It's not about taking sides.'

'We must replace the old bilateralism of the Cold War, not with a new bilateralism, but with a multi-lateralism that can rise to the task ahead.'

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates met on Friday in Singapore with his Chinese counterpart, General Liang Guanglie, amid recent signs of warming relations between the two countries.

China's army chief of staff met with top US military officials last month in Washington, and China for the first time chose to send its defense minister to the Singapore conference, now in its 10th year.

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