China yesterday denounced Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario's call for other countries to take a stand regarding the South China Sea, adding that China's stance on safeguarding its territory and sovereignty was clear and firm.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin speaks at a regular press conference in Beijing on April 23, 2012. [Photo/fmprc.gov.cn]
Del Rosario, in a message sent to reporters on Sunday, urged other countries to "consider what China is endeavoring to do" on Huangyan Island in the South China Sea.
The Philippines has claimed sovereignty over the island, which is part of Chinese territory.
"The Huangyan Island concerns China's sovereignty and the stance of the Chinese government on safeguarding its territory and sovereignty is clear and firm," Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said in Beijing.
"It will only complicate and scale up the issue to ask other countries to take sides over sovereignty issues," Liu said, adding that such a move would not help to properly settle the current situation.
On April 10, a dozen Chinese fishing boats were harassed by a Philippine Navy gunboat while taking refuge from bad weather in a lagoon near Huangyan Island.
Two Chinese marine surveillance ships conducting routine patrols in the area later came to the fishermen's rescue.
As the standoff enters its third week, China has a maritime surveillance ship and six fishing boats in the area while the Philippines has a coastguard vessel and a fisheries boat.
On Sunday, Lieutenant General Juancho Sabban said after annual US-Philippines war games on the western Philippine island of Palawan he had asked for more ships and aircraft to step up patrols in the area, Reuters reported.
"We have more patrols now than before and we are asking for more air assets so we can patrol the area," he said.
China's military, in a commentary in the Liberation Army Daily last Saturday, warned the United States that US-Philippine military exercises had raised the risk of armed confrontation in the South China Sea.
Peking University professor Jia Qingguo said China may be preparing to take a tougher line on disputes, adding many in China want the US to rein in the Philippines.
"Quite a lot of people are thinking that the US is encouraging the Philippines to create a problem for China in the South China Sea," Jia said.
The U.S. and Philippine troops launched two weeks of the naval exercises in mid-April. Amphibious landing drills are set to take place tomorrow in areas facing the South China Sea.
However, the U.S. and Philippine military officials said the drills were not directed at China or any other party.