Rising global tension: Philippine’s largest warship in tense stand-off with Chinese surveillance vessels

Wednesday, April 11, 2012
By Paul Martin

April 11, 2012

MANILA – The Philippines has said its largest warship is engaged in a tense stand-off with Chinese surveillance vessels at a disputed South China Sea shoal. The confrontation came after the ship attempted to arrest Chinese fishermen, but was blocked by the surveillance craft, the government said. Foreign secretary Albert Del Rosario summoned Chinese ambassador Ma Keqing to resolve the dangerous impasse diplomatically. Mr. Del Rosario’s office said the Scarborough Shoal “is an integral part of Philippine territory” and Filipino authorities would assert sovereignty over the offshore area. The Philippine navy was sending additional vessels toward the shoal, which lies about 124 miles from the nearest Philippine coast, a navy official said. China and the Philippines have been disputing ownership of the shoal, off the north-western Philippine province of Zambales, in addition to the Spratly Islands and other areas in the South China Sea. Philippine foreign affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez said the situation at the shoal “has not changed as of this morning. There’s a stand-off.” The Department of Foreign Affairs said that on Sunday a Philippine navy surveillance plane sighted eight Chinese fishing vessels anchored in a lagoon at Scarborough, prompting the military to deploy its largest warship, the BRP Gregorio del Pilar, which was recently acquired from the United States. Two Chinese maritime surveillance ships, identified as Zhonggou Haijian 75 and Zhonggou Haijian 84, later approached and positioned themselves between the Philippine warship and the Chinese fishing vessels “thus preventing the arrests of the erring Chinese fishermen,” the statement said. –BT

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