China blames the Philippines for South China Sea dispute
China warned the Philippines that confrontation over a disputed island in the South China Sea could worsen. Beijing has made 'every preparation' to counter Manila's 'provocations.'
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Ariel Zirulnick is the Monitor's Middle East editor, overseeing regional coverage both for CSMonitor.com and the weekly magazine. She is also a contributor to the international desk's terrorism and security blog.
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A month-long standoff in the South China Sea between China and the Philippines picked up a notch today, with China accusing the Philippines of "continuous provocation" and warning that it is prepared to respond to any escalations.
The dispute is over what is known internationally as the Scarborough Shoal, a cluster of islands in the South China Sea less than 200 miles from the Philippines. The Philippines insists the shoal is within its exclusive economic zone, but China has staked claim to huge swathes of the South China Sea hundreds of miles from its shore, including this one (known in China as Huangyan Island), bringing it into conflict with several countries in the region.
China has painted the Philippine claim to the land as opportunistic, noting that China first staked a claim in 1935, while the Philippines didn't until 1997. In an Op-Ed for China Daily, Li Jenming, a professor at the Center for Southeast Asia Studies, writes that the "exclusive economic zone" claim "lacks legal basis."
China has continuously portrayed the Philippines as the aggressor in the latest standoff, which began in early April when a Philippine naval ship attempted to arrest Chinese fishermen found fishing in the waters around the shoal. They were blocked by other Chinese ships accompanying the fishing vessels.
Both Chinese and Philippine ships have been hovering in the area since then, BBC reports, and today China's vice foreign minister called on the Philippines to remove its ships. China has rejected requests to resolve the dispute at the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea.
Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Fu Ying said today that her country is prepared to respond to any efforts by the Philippines to escalate the situation. The Philippines has sent ships to the disputed area and made "erroneous" comments that have distorted the view of Filipinos and the international community, she said, according to Xinhua.
"However, it is obvious that the Philippine side has not realized that it is making serious mistakes and, instead, is stepping up efforts to escalate tensions," Ms. Fu said. "Therefore it is hard for us to be optimistic about the situation."
Philippine provocations include, according to China Daily, Manila's renaming of the island, bringing the dispute to an international court unilaterally, and the continued presence of Filipino ships in the Scarborough Shoal area.