China issues warning to Philippines over disputed Spratlys
Latest exchange follows recent dispute over Chinese fishing boats
China yesterday warned Manila that it was concerned over Filipino activity related to a shoal in the disputed Spratly Islands.
Chinese ambassador to the Philippines Ma Keqing relayed Beijing’s concerns to Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin on the sidelines of an event in Manila to mark the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers.
"They were concerned about the Philippines coming up with additional structures on Ayungin Shoal," Gazmin told reporters after meeting with Ma.
Filipino soldiers have occupied the shoal since 1999 using a grounded ship as a base.
Gazmin said the Philippines will not put up structures in the occupied areas in compliance with a 2002 code of conduct agreed between the countries which have laid a claim to the Spratly’s. These countries also includes Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei.
A Philippine navy official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said a logistics ship will soon depart for the Spratly Islands to deliver supplies. Navy chief Vice-Admiral Jose Luis Alano refused to give details of the upcoming resupply mission but said China should not be bothered by it.
Gazmin confirmed that he briefed the Chinese ambassador on the mission.
In response, Ma said that China was “ready to promote cooperation and exchanges between the two countries.”
The Philippines filed a diplomatic protest against China after 30 fishing boats, escorted by a Chinese navy frigate and two maritime surveillance ships, were spotted at the shoal on May 8.
The Philippines claims Ayungin Shoal, which is located 170 kilometers from Palawan province, as part of its territory within a 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone based on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
In recent years, China has been more assertive in its claim to the archipelago of more than 750 reefs, atolls and islets as an area within what it calls the nine-dotted line extending across much of the South China Sea.
The Spratly’s, which only constitute a total of four square-kilometers, are believed to contain vast mineral deposits.
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