This undated handout released Wednesday by Manila's Department of Foreign Affairs shows Philippine navy troops inspecting a Chinese fishing vessel after it was intercepted off Huangyan Island in the South China Sea. Photo: AFP
A Philippine warship was at a standoff with a Chinese patrol vessel and fishing boat Wednesday around Huangyan Islet of the Nansha Islands Wednesday. The attempt by the Philippines to expel and capture Chinese boats was not successful. The standoff continued as of last night while both sides expressed wishes to end the impasse peacefully.
The standoff happened in China's conventional fishing areas. The Philippines has never had actual control of the Huangyan Islet. The response of the Chinese side has followed normal procedure when its assets were under military threat by the Philippines.
The patrol vessel can effectively protect Chinese fishing boats and crew without the participation of China's navy as the incident has showed. This is progress in China exerting sovereignty over the Nansha Islands.
This reaction would change the expectations of other parties concerning China's attitude toward South China Sea disputes. Peace and stability in the area are still what China strives for but it will not make unprincipled concessions to the recklessness of neighboring countries. A resolute response to protecting its interests should be expected from China.
The disputes are more complex when outside participants get involved. The US is encouraging the Philippines and Vietnam to take more risks.
Charting troubled waters needs a clear action plan. Disputes and harassment should not deter Chinese fishermen from their conventional fisheries. Unprotected fishing boats are often detained by neighboring countries. They need close escorts by patrol vessels, including to help with confrontations at times like these.
If Chinese fishing boats or vessels are attacked by navy ships belonging to the Philippines or Vietnam, it will signal the escalation of disputes. A response from the Chinese navy should be expected. Should a military clash happen in South China Sea, China will not fire the first shot but will react accordingly.
China is not willing to solve South China Sea disputes through military means. It has the patience to work out solutions with the countries concerned through negotiation. It has remained reserved in protecting its interests.
The Philippines is taking a radical approach to divert domestic pressure. But China will not compromise its principles to appease its fitful neighbor.
Beijing protests over S.China Sea standoff
China Wednesday protested to Manila over a tense standoff between the Philippines' biggest warship and two Chinese surveillance vessels in the South China Sea, which was still continuing at press time.
According to a statement sent to the Global Times Wednesday by the Chinese embassy in Manila, the embassy on Tuesday received a report that 12 Chinese fishing boats were in the lagoon of Huangyan Island in the South China Sea to shelter from harsh weather conditions when a Philippine Naval warship blocked the entrance to the lagoon.
South China Sea Conflict