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Terrorism & Security

Race for oil heats up territorial disputes in the South China Sea

The expansion of oil exploration and drilling in the South China Sea has raised the stakes in the various territorial disputes between China and its neighbors, particularly the Philippines.

By Staff writer / August 3, 2011



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Rapidly expanding oil exploration looks likely to escalate territorial disputes in the South China Sea, which is suspected of containing vast oil and natural gas resources.

A Philippine company, Philex Mining Corp., announced Tuesday that it plans to drill at least two wells and expand its surveys in Reed Bank, one of the most contested areas of the South China Sea, the Wall Street Journal reports.

China claims the sea in its entirety and several other countries in the region, including the Philippines, Vietnam, and Taiwan, claim parts of it.

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Within 24 hours of that announcement, the Chinese Communist Party newspaper People's Daily published an editorial arguing that Philippines' efforts at resolving territorial disputes "lack sincerity," citing construction by the Philippines' military on a disputed island. Titled "Some countries will pay for misjudging China's sovereignty," it also issued a veiled threat to countries that "freely encroach on China's territory."

The basic consensus of China and ASEAN countries is that the urgent task of ensuring the stability of the South China Sea situation is to keep self-control and not to take actions that may make the dispute more complex and expansive and affect the world peace and stability. The behavior of the Philippines is the invasion of China's territory and also the destruction of the ASEAN position. …

China has put forward the principle of "shelving certain disputes for common development" [a] long time ago and has followed this principle. Related parties should fully understand that China's principle and position do not mean that China will allow certain countries to freely encroach on China's territory. Any countries that made serious strategic misjudgment on this issue will certainly pay a high price.

While not directly addressing the accusations lodged against Manila in the editorial, the Philippines' Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said today that his country is committed to international law and a peaceful resolution, and said Manila would raise the territorial dispute with the United Nations, the Associated Press reports.

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