Stalemate in the South China Sea
As tensions rise in the South China Sea due to disputes over sovereignty, China and the Philippines have entered a stalemate in the Scarborough Shoal. Previous reports from the Washington Post claimed that the standoff had diffused when the ships left the region, but an announcement from the Philippines has claimed that the stalemate remains. AFP reports:
“The stalemate remains. Both sides are in touch with each other,” Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez said in a brief statement.
He said Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario left Sunday for a week-long trip to the United States, and negotiations would be taken over by one of his top aides.
On Monday, the Philippines and the United States are due to begin joint annual war games to boost its military alliance amid fears of China’s growing power in the region.
The Scarborough Shoal dispute started on April 8 when the Philippines found the eight Chinese fishing boats in the area, which the Philippines claims as its territory.
The standoff was triggered by Chinese fishing boats refusing to give up their catch to the Philippines, which resulted in the Chinese fishing boats being guarded by surveillance ships and the Philippines sending out their biggest warship. Reuters adds:
The Philippines had wanted the Chinese fishermen to hand over their hauls of giant clams, corals and live sharks harvested near the disputed Scarborough Shoal, in return for safe passage out of the area.
“The Chinese fishing vessels had left the lagoon, a development which we had been working towards except for our not being able to confiscate their illegal harvest … which was regrettable,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Del Rosario said in a statement.
There is concern among some neighbors about what they see as China’s growing assertiveness in staking its claims over the sea and various islands, reefs and shoals.
The Philippines and China traded diplomatic protests over the latest confrontation with the Philippines complaining of intrusion and illegal fishing and China saying its fishermen were harassed.