China denies preparing for war over South China Sea

Published: May 12, 2012

The tense stand-off centres on Scarborough Shoal, a tiny rocky outcrop in the South China Sea. PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING: China denied it is increasing combat readiness in response to a territorial row with the Philippines over a disputed shoal in the South China Sea.

The tense stand-off which erupted last month centres on Scarborough Shoal, a tiny rocky outcrop in the South China Sea about 230km from the Philippines’ main island of Luzon.

The dispute began when Philippine authorities detected Chinese ships fishing there. They attempted to arrest the crew, but were blocked by Chinese surveillance vessels that were quickly deployed to the area.

China’s defence ministry denied military units were getting ready for war, despite warnings in state media that China is prepared to fight to end the stand-off.

“Reports that the Guangzhou military region, the South China Sea fleet and other units have entered a state of war preparedness are untrue,” the ministry said in a brief statement on its website Friday.

The Guangzhou military region in southern China has responsibility for the area.

It gave no source for the reports, but rumours on the Internet say China has ordered some military units up to level two of its four-level scale of war preparedness, one notch from the top which indicates full readiness.

The two nations have had non-military vessels stationed at the shoal since April 8 in an effort to assert their sovereignty to the area.

China claims virtually all of the South China Sea, which is believed to sit atop huge oil and gas reserves, as its historical territory, even waters close to the coasts of other Asian countries.

The Philippines says the shoal is part of its territory because it falls within its exclusive economic zone.

On Friday, around 300 protestors demonstrated outside the Chinese embassy in the Philippines to denounce “bullying” by Beijing.

A Chinese state-backed newspaper on Saturday accused the Philippines of whipping up nationalism through the protest, but it added military conflict in the South China Sea was possible.

Taiwan, Brunei, Vietnam and Malaysia also claim parts of the sea. The rival claims have for decades made the waters one of Asia’s potential military flashpoints.

“Nationalism seems to echo just as strongly wherever you go around the South China Sea. The Philippines is showing prominent such behaviour,” the Global Times said in an editorial.

“It remains possible that military conflicts will ensue in the South China Sea, and when that happens China will certainly take firm action,” it added.

Chinese authorities also this week ordered tour operators to suspend trips to the Philippines.

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Reader Comments (6)

  • Abbas
    May 12, 2012 - 2:27PM

    The South China Sea war would be fought between –

    China Vs Vietnam + Philippines + Taiwan + Brunei + Malaysia (with support of USA)


  • Abbas
    May 12, 2012 - 2:38PM

    The South China Sea war would be fought between –

    China Vs Vietnam + Philippines + Taiwan + Brunei + Malaysia (with support of USA)Recommend

  • John B
    May 12, 2012 - 4:14PM

    “Ripples in China’s calm water ?”

    South China sea conflict will become the last straw on the camel’s back. Hopefully all this bravado is for the local communist executive working committee to show who is tougher than the other guy during the transition period.


  • May 12, 2012 - 4:29PM

    Not gonna happen. Chinese is a wise nation they have their domestic problems too and they are never risking their International status for this. I can bet..!!!


  • G. Din
    May 12, 2012 - 11:52PM

    China considers all of South China Sea in its suzerainty because it is named after China. Now, listen to the howls of protest if it is even suggested that, following China’s example, India should declare its suzerainty over the whole Indian Ocean, as it is named after India. It is only fair, isn’t it?


  • j. von hettlingen
    May 13, 2012 - 3:12AM

    The Philippines could take China to the International Court of Justice in the Hague, which should decide who owns the Scarborough Shoal.
    China is now piling commercial sanctions on top of the diplomatic and military pressure, advising travel agents to suspend all tours to the Philippines and tightening inspections of fruit imports and warning its citizens to be careful of their safety.


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