China blasts Philippines' weapons purchase

Posted at 05/23/2012 9:00 PM | Updated as of 07/19/2012 4:32 AM
The USCGC Dallas, a second Hamilton-class cutter being transferred to the Philippine Navy and renamed BRP Ramon Alcaraz. (US Coast Guard photo)

MANILA, Philippines - China warned the Philippines on Wednesday that the 2 countries' territorial dispute over Scarborough shoal will get worse because of Manila's decision to buy weapons abroad.

China's Foreign Ministry, in a press statement published  by state-owned China.org.cn, lashed out at the Philippines' impending acquisition of a second Hamilton class cutter from the United States, as well as President Benigno Aquino's plans to buy fighter jets for the the Philippine Air Force.

Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary earlier said Manila will buy 12 patrol ships from Japan, aircraft from South Korea, as well as search and rescue ships from Australia.

China quoted Del Rosario as saying that the Philippines is getting the help of other countries to build a "minimum credible defense posture."

"The Philippine decision to draw a third party into the incident in any way will further escalate the situation and even change the nature of the issue," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said.

Beijing also quoted an official of China Institute of International Studies as saying that while the Philippines can buy weapons to improve its armed forces, it can't be compared to China's military.

"And with the Philippine economy performing worse since Aquino became president, the country will face rising financial dangers if it spends too much on its military, Qu said," according to China's Foreign Ministry.

'Philippines no match to China'

It said Major General Xu Yan, an official of the People's Liberation Army's (PLA) National Defense University, sees the Philippines as no match to China even if Manila buys new weapons and equipment.

"Once (the Philippines) dares escalate the movements of maritime police into military operations, it will suffer a great calamity from China's strike in response to their attack," Xu said.

Xu added that China now has "a large batch" of large and advanced ships that can be immediately deployed to Scarborough shoal.

Current strength of China's People's Liberation Army Navy (US Department of Defense graphic)

According to the US Department of Defense's latest report on China's military forces,  Beijing has 203 destroyers, frigates, amphibious transport, landing ships, diesel and nuclear attack submarines, and coastal patrol vessels deployed in the South and East China seas alone.

"The PLA Navy has the largest force of principal combatants, submarines, and amphibious warfare ships in Asia," the Pentagon report said.

China also has around 2,120 operational combat aircraft consisting of air defense and multi-role fighters, ground attack aircraft, fighter-bombers, and bombers.

It also has an undetermined number of ballistic and cruise missiles at its disposal.

Japan-Philippines alliance

A separate commentary published by China.org.cn, meanwhile, criticized Japan over its proposed patrol ships deal with the Philippines.

"At a summit held last September, the leaders of Japan and the Philippines agreed that Japan would aid the Philippines in terms of strengthening its garrison force in the South China Sea and training the Philippine Coast Guard. In addition, both sides will share intelligence regarding matters in the South China Sea. It is therefore clear that Japan is establishing a platform of full engagement in the region," said the commentary written by Chen Guangwen.

"As Japan is already engaged in a dispute with China over the sovereignty of Diaoyu Island, aiding the Philippines in its territorial disputes with China in this way could dramatically escalate tensions in the region," Chen added.

"It is not hard to understand Japan's intentions. As a country outside the region, Japan's active engagement has two main purposes. One is to distract China's attention from Diaoyu Island and the East China Sea. Japan wants to use the disputes between China and other South East Asian countries as bargaining chips in its negotiations with China on the issue of Diaoyu Island. The second purpose is to protect its interests relating to its freedom of navigation and resource development in the South China Sea," Chen said.

"Both Japan and the Philippines are concerned about China's peaceful rise, despite its good intentions based on the policy of 'building an amicable, tranquil and prosperous neighborhood. The Philippines has already benefited from China's rise and concomitant bilateral trade. Even in the Huangyan Island dispute, China did not react with force to Philippine stubbornness. By contrast, the recent warming of relations between Japan and the Philippines is clearly based on the intention to counter China's growing regional influence," he said.

China still sending ships to Scarborough

The DFA on Wednesday said contrary to China's claims that it is easing the tension on Scarborough, the Philippine Coast Guard has monitored an increasing number Chinese government vessels and fishing vessels in the area.

"At around 1900H of May 21, 2012, there were five Chinese Government vessels (CMS-71, CMS-84, FLEC-301, FLEC-303 and FLEC-310), and 16 Chinese fishing boats, ten of which were inside the lagoon while six were outside. In addition, there were 56 utility boats, 27 of which were inside the lagoon and 29 were outside," the DFA said in a press statement.

It added that at least 16 Chinese fishing vessels and 76 utility boats were in the area on Tuesday.

"It is regrettable that these actions occurred at a time when China has been articulating for a deescalation of tensions and while the two sides have been discussing how to defuse the situation in the area," the DFA said.

"The Philippines protests these actions of China as clear violations of Philippine sovereignty and jurisdiction over the Shoal and sovereign rights over the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) that covers the waters around Bajo de Masinloc," it added.

The DFA said China's actions violate the ASEAN-China Declaration of Conduct on the South China Sea.

"The recent actions of China are also in violation of the United Nations Charter, specifically Article 2.4, which provides the following: All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations," it added.

The DFA said it sent a note verbale to the Chinese embassy in Manila over China's actions.

"The Philippines demands that China’s vessels immediately pull out from Bajo de Masinloc and the Philippines’ EEZ and for China to refrain from taking further actions that exacerbate the situation in the West Philippine Sea," it added. "Discussions to defuse the tensions in Bajo de Masinloc are continuing cognizant of our mandate under the Philippine Constitution to defend our sovereignty and territorial integrity."