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Philippines’ warship consolidation angers China

Updated: Jul 16,2015 7:47 AM     China Daily

Beijing objects to move by the Philippines to repair grounded vessel on Chinese island

China objected on July 15 to the Philippines repairing a warship that it ran aground near Ren’ai Reef in the South China Sea, saying that the effort only illustrates that the country is creating trouble.

“We urge the Philippines to stop illegal activities at once and keep its promise to drag the ship away,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in a statement released on the ministry’s website, adding that China reserves the right to take further action.

Manila grounded the vessel in 1999 after a mechanical breakdown and has not relocated it, despite demands from Beijing.

Two officers from the Philippines told Reuters recently that the country’s navy is reinforcing the hull and deck of the ship, and the work is due to be completed by the end of this year.

Although Manila has promised many times to retrieve the ship, it has attempted to permanently occupy the reef through maintenance work instead, Hua said.

“The Philippines has lost credit in the international community by breaking its promise. ... It, again, proves that the country is the real troublemaker and rule breaker in the region,” Hua said.

Li Guoqiang, an expert on border issues at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the Philippines is seeking to use the stranded ship to legitimize claims it has in the sea and to infuriate China, as a sovereignty case it filed in the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands, reaches a critical stage.

China refused to recognize the arbitration after a hearing concluded on Monday.

“On the issue of territorial sovereignty and maritime rights, China will never accept any imposed plan, nor any solution arrived at by unilaterally resorting to a third party for resolving disputes,” Hua said on Tuesday.

Li, the border expert, said, “Since 2013, when Manila initiated the arbitration, it has taken advantage of the derelict ship to woo sympathy from the international community and build evidence to create an image that it’s a victim.”

China has shown self-restraint and has been committed to safeguarding overall peace and stability in the region, he said.

Chen Qinghong, a Southeast Asian studies researcher at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said the administration of Philippine President Benigno Aquino wants its tough policy toward China to be continued in the next government by hyping the dispute over the South China Sea ahead of the country’s presidential election in 2016.

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