Feb 21, 2013

China Hungry For Oil in disputed waters

Indonesia – China’s aggressive actions in the South China Sea and West Philippine Sea appear to be motivated by a hunger to exploit the area’s rich oil and gas resources, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said yesterday (July 23, 2011).

Speaking on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Forum here, Del Rosario also said China’s behavior in the disputed waters raised concerns about how it would treat its neighbors as it became more powerful.

“I think the wealth of the area in terms of hydrocarbon assets could stimulate an increased interest in the area,” Del Rosario said when asked why China had, according to the Philippines, become more aggressive.

He said the Philippines was looking at the events in Southeast Asia’s disputed waters through a broader window of how China intended to treat other countries as it became more powerful.

“I think there is that concern that China is becoming more powerful,” he said.

“We support their progress and their growth. It is good for the region. But at the same time it is our expectation that their strength and their growth and their influence will be exercised in a responsible way,” he said.

China claims all of the South China Sea, even up to the coast of Southeast Asian countries, as part of its historical territory, on the other hand, The Sultanate of Sulu slams the claim of China as the Spratlys Islands and waters is part of their Ancestral domain with bases dates back from the Mahjapahit and Shrivijaya empires, which extended from Sabah (North Borneo), the Sulu archipelago, Palawan, parts of Mindanao, the islands now known as the Spratlys, Palawan, and up to the Visayas and Manila.

Del Rosario said these intrusions occurred within 85 nautical miles of Palawan, but nearly 600 nautical miles from the nearest coast of China.

He insisted China’s claim to all of the sea, based on a Chinese map with nine dashes outlining its territory, would be rejected in an international court.

“We take the position that China’s nine-dash claim to sovereignty over the South China Sea is baseless,” he said.

“If Philippine sovereign rights can be denigrated by this baseless claim, many countries should begin to contemplate the potential threat to freedom of navigation in the South China Sea,” Del Rosario said.

“China’s hesitation to accept the Philippine suggestion to elevate their dispute to ITLOS (International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea) could lead to conclusion that China may not be able to validate their stated positions in accordance with the UNCLOS,” he said. UNCLOS refers to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Del Rosario proposed on June 11 that the Philippines and China elevate the issue to ITLOS.

The DFA chief also praised the ASEAN Regional Forum for its role in keeping stability and strengthening cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region since 1994.

“With the focus being on non-traditional security issues, we have managed to expand the opportunities for dialogue and cooperation in the four priority areas, namely: disaster relief, counter-terrorism and transnational crime, non-proliferation and disarmament, and maritime security,” he said.

He cited the expansion of the East Asia Summit (EAS) – to include Russia and the US – as well as the launching of the ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting-Plus as two significant developments in the past year.

“The Philippines recognizes the importance of forging closer cooperation and harmonizing these regional mechanisms to ensure coordination in addressing security issues in the Asia-Pacific region,” Del Rosario said.

US concern over the Spratlys conflict

Also in the forum, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that a recent surge in tensions threatened regional peace, while warning against force to solve the dispute.

“The United States is concerned that recent incidents in the South China Sea threaten the peace and stability on which the remarkable progress of the Asia Pacific region has been built,” Clinton said in prepared remarks to foreign ministers.

“These incidents endanger the safety of life at sea, escalate tensions, undermine freedom of navigation, and pose risks to lawful unimpeded commerce and economic development,” she said.

“Each of the parties should comply with their commitments to respect freedom of navigation and over-flight in the South China Sea in accordance with international law, to resolve their disputes through peaceful means, without resorting to the threat or use of force,” she said.

China claims all of the South China Sea, even up to the coast of Southeast Asian countries, as part of what it considers historical territory.

The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have overlapping claims to all or parts of the sea, which is believed to be extremely rich in oil and gas deposits.

In recent months, the Philippines and Vietnam have accused China of increasingly aggressive behavior in the sea, such as harassing fishermen and oil exploration vessels.

The Philippines has said Chinese forces shot at Filipino fishermen, deployed navy patrol boats to intimidate an oil exploration vessel and placed markers on some of the islets.

The area has long been considered one of Asia’s potential military flashpoints, and in 1998 Vietnam fought a brief naval battle with China on one of the reefs that left 50 Vietnamese sailors dead.

Vietnam said that, in one incident, Chinese sailors boarded a Vietnamese fishing boat and beat its captain before stealing the crew’s catch.

China has responded to the accusations by insisting it wants to resolve the dispute peacefully, but firmly maintaining all of the South China Sea is its sovereign territory.

At a meeting with the 10 members of the ASEAN on Wednesday in Bali, China agreed to a set of guidelines setting a framework for an eventual code of conduct for the South China Sea.

China and some ASEAN members hailed this as a breakthrough that would defuse the tensions, however, the Philippines maintained that the Chinese side had not made enough concessions and the guidelines lacked teeth.

Clinton praised the guidelines as an “important first step,” but called on all parties to work more quickly towards achieving a final diplomatic solution.

“The United States encourages all parties to accelerate efforts to reach a full code of conduct in the South China Sea,” Clinton said.

In comments likely to further irk China, Clinton also emphasized the US had a “national interest” in keeping the sea’s vital shipping lanes open for international trade and navigation.

Taiwan refuses to recognize ASEAN-China pact on Spratlys

Taipei - Taiwan on Friday (July 22, 2011) said it refused to recognize a pact reached between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China on the Spratlys islands dispute two days earlier.

The Foreign Ministry said that the Republic of China (Taiwan) government will not recognize any resolution on the Spratlys reached without its participation.

On Wednesday, ASEAN and China agreed on a so-called Declaration of Conduct setting up guidelines for international cooperation in disputed parts of the South China Sea.

The Taiwan Foreign Ministry said that whether looked at from the perspective of history, geography or international law, the Spratlys as well as their surrounding waters, seabeds and subsoil, belong to the Republic of China (Taiwan).

Taiwan upholds the basic principles of 'safeguarding sovereignty, shelving disputes, promoting peace and reciprocity, and encouraging joint exploration,' the ministry said. It is willing to work with other relevant parties in the region to find resolutions to disputes.

The Spratlys are claimed wholly or in part by Vietnam, Taiwan, China, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei, and all but Brunei have a military presence on one or more of the otherwise uninhabited atolls. The islands are believed to contain substantial offshore petroleum reserves.


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