China, Philippines Agree to Show Restraint

Amid rising tensions in the South China Sea and both countries imposing fishing bans in the Scarborough Shoal, China and the Philippines seem to have reached an agreement to show restraint. This announcement would ease tensions surrounding the two-month long stand-off following accusations from the Philippines that Chinese fishing boats were illegally fishing near the shoal. The Straits Times reports:

The defence chiefs of China and the Philippines have agreed to show restraint in their countries’ 2-month-old standoff at a disputed shoal in the South China Sea.

China’s Liang Guanglie and the Philippines’ Voltaire Gazmin met on Monday on the sidelines of a meeting of Southeast Asian defense ministers in the Cambodian capital for the first time since tensions flared on April 10.

Mr Gazmin said on Tuesday that the two men agreed that both countries should avoid provocative actions and public statements and keep their lines of communication open.

While the tensions may be easing, they are part of a larger dispute in the region. From the Voice of America:

China and the Philippines imposed temporary fishing bans in the area earlier this month, in an attempt to lessen the tension. But Manila accused Beijing last week of sending additional ships to the territory, saying some were observed breaking the fishing ban.

China says the islands, known as Huangyan in China, are a key part of Chinese territory, while the Philippines says the shoal is within its internationally recognized exclusive economic zone. China has rejected a request by the Philippines to refer the issue to an international court.

The standoff is part of a wider territorial dispute in the South China Sea, parts of which are also claimed by Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, and Brunei. China claims nearly the entire region, which is thought to contain large amounts of oil and natural gas.

There are also reports that the new envoy to China from the Philippines will work to further smooth out the relationship. From China Daily:

Philippine President Benigno Aquino III has designated career diplomat Sonia Brady as the newambassador to China, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said on Saturday, a fewdays after Aquino approved the appointment of Brady on May 23.

Aquino wanted “someone who is already familiar with the politics and the culture of that country.That person can hit the ground running”, Valte said of Brady, who will have to pass theCommission on Appointments prior to taking her position.

It is abnormal for the Philippines to have not appointed an ambassador to China for more than one year, said Ren Yuanzhe, a researcher at China Foreign Affairs University. The situation reflects the strained relationship between Manila and Beijing, and any two countries with normal diplomatic relations should exchange ambassadors based on the principle of reciprocity.

Ambassadors are particularly needed when there are difficulties in mutual ties, he said, hopingthe veteran, who served as ambassador in Beijing from 2006 to 2010, could play her due rolein connecting the two countries and achieving a smooth and friendly relationship.

Read more on the South China Sea disputes, via CDT.


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