The two-month territorial standoff in the South China Sea over the Huangyan Islands, also known as the “Scarborough Shoal,” has been intensifying. China has been calling for diplomacy without third party intervention, but now the Philippines has brought the dispute to the United Nations. Here’s Liling Tan at the UN, with more. Liling, how much of a commitment to mediation is this?
It’s hard to say for certain at this point. While the Philippines Foreign Affairs Secretary did take the opportunity at the U.N. General Assembly meeting on mediation to bring up the dispute, and the country’s intent to pursue mediation as a course of action, he didn’t go into specifics.
Albert del Rosario, Secretary of Foreign Affairs, the Philippines says“Mediation forms an important part of a rules-based approach to the peaceful settlement of disputes. It is for this reason that we are pursuing this course in hoping to resolve the conflicting claims in the West Philippines Sea.”
It’s short on details, and it’s uncertain how much the move would ease escalating tensions between the two Asian nations. Manila’s mediation request comes after calls by China for the Philippines to engage in a dialogue over the matter. So for Manila hasn’t accepted the invitation. Instead, Manila declared in May its intention to give the islands a Filipino name: the “Panatag Shoal.”
The Philippine media began reporting unsupported claims that China had sent 100 ships into the waters. Beijing said a fraction of that number—all of them fishing boats – were operating nearby.Hong Lei, Spokesman, Chinese Foreign Ministry says, “The Philippines has been making provocations on the sea around the Huangyan island. So China is strengthening its regulatory measures against those moves.
About 20 fishing ships are currently in the territory. The number is around the same level as previous years. Their operations there are in line with relevant laws of China, as well as the country’s fishing ban. " The irony is that in this context, asking for third party mediation could be considered provocative, because China considers this is a dispute between Beijing and Manila only.
Involving third parties “will further escalate the situation and even change the nature of the issue,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry has said. This past Sunday, Philippines Foreign Secretary Rosario said Manila is also going to Japan, South Korea and Australia to build a quote, “minimum credible defense posture”—expressly to handle its territorial disputes with China.
The Philippines reportedly wants to buy more patrol ships from Japan and planes from South Korea, and on Wednesday was scheduled to take delivery of its second Hamilton Class coast guard cutter—one of the largest built in the United States.