June 26th, 2012 | Global Times No withdrawal from stormy southern seas
China will continue to be vigilant when it comes to the jurisdiction of areas around Huangyan Island, China’s foreign ministry said Monday, reiterating the nation’s sovereignty over the areas in response to a statement from its Philippine counterpart.
“Currently, tensions around Huangyan Island have overall been easing,” Hong Lei, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry said Monday at a regular press briefing, while noting that “Chinese government ships maintain jurisdiction and vigilance over the areas.”
Hong’s remarks came after Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario’s comment that China has pulled out all its vessels from the areas.
“Based on coordination with the Philippines and China, as of two days ago, we have received information that all boats have left the lagoon” in the ring-shaped coral reef, Del Rosario said in a statement sent to local media, according to the Philippines-based GMA News.
“There are no longer any boats from either the Philippines or China” inside the areas, read the statement.
Philippine president Benigno Aquino III had previously ordered the withdrawal of two ships from the island on June 16, citing typhoon weather, while threatening a few days later to send the ships back if Chinese ships remained after the weather improved.
Relations between the two countries have been tense since a standoff near Huangyan Island which began in April.
The Philippines alleged Sunday that a Chinese vessel may have accidentally rammed a Philippine fishing boat north of the island, killing one person and causing the other four to go missing.
Hong said that the relevant departments in China have not received any accident or rescue reports in regard to the allegations.
While commenting on the establishment of a Philippine kindergarten on Zhongye Island in the South China Sea, Hong said, “China has indisputable sovereignty over the Nansha Islands and the adjacent waters. The nation opposes any illegal activities infringing on its sovereignty,” urging concerned nations to avoid exacerbating disputes in the area.
Zhuang Guotu, director of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies at Xiamen University, said that “China has never made commitments that it would pull out from the waters around the island. The Philippine side is saying this to get out of an awkward situation.”
China has recently taken measures to strengthen its sovereignty over areas in the South China Sea, amid its ongoing row with the Philippines and Vietnam, both of which claim sovereignty over certain areas in these disputed waters.
South China’s Hainan Province will designate four areas around the Xisha Islands as cultural relic protection areas, and build an offshore supervision platform in cooperation with the Ministry of Public Security to oversee the waters, and help with the protection of these cultural relics, the Xinhua News Agency reported Monday.
China’s Ministry of Civil Affairs also announced on Thursday it would designate a city to have administration over the Xisha, Zhongsha, Nansha Islands and their adjacent waters, following approval from the State Council.
“All these efforts signal that China is fortifying its presence,” Zhuang said.
“This cultural angle of resolving the disputes would be wiser than simply resorting to military conflicts. It demonstrates the nation’s confidence as well as the legitimacy of its territorial claims which date back to ancient times,” Sun Yingchun, an international relations professor at the Communication University of China, told the Global Times.
It is also important that China pursues economic activities in the sea in an attempt to emphasize its control over the region while easing tensions, Sun said.
By Li Qiaoyi