China starts "combat ready" patrols in disputed seas

BEIJING Thu Jun 28, 2012 9:03am EDT

An aerial view shows the Pagasa (Hope) Island, part of the disputed Spratly group of islands, in the South China Sea located off the coast of western Philippines July 20, 2011. REUTERS/Rolex Dela

An aerial view shows the Pagasa (Hope) Island, part of the disputed Spratly group of islands, in the South China Sea located off the coast of western Philippines July 20, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Rolex Dela

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BEIJING (Reuters) - China has begun combat-ready patrols in the waters around a disputed group of islands in the South China Sea, the Defence Ministry said on Thursday, the latest escalation in tension over the potentially resource-rich area.

Asked about what China would do in response to Vietnamese air patrols over the Spratly Islands, the ministry's spokesman, Geng Yansheng, said China would "resolutely oppose any militarily provocative behavior".

"In order to protect national sovereignty and our security and development interests, the Chinese military has already set up a normal, combat-ready patrol system in seas under our control," he said.

"The Chinese military's resolve and will to defend territorial sovereignty and protect our maritime rights and interests is firm and unshakeable," Geng added, according to a transcript on the ministry's website ( of comments at a briefing.

He did not elaborate. The ministry does not allow foreign reporters to attend its monthly briefings.

China is involved in long-running disputes with Vietnam and the Philippines about ownership of the South China Sea and its myriad, mostly uninhabited, islands and atolls. Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei also have claims.

Last week, China said it "vehemently opposed" a Vietnamese law asserting sovereignty over the Paracel and Spratly Islands, which straddle key shipping lanes and are thought to contain rich energy reserves.

That row came days after an easing in a months-long standoff between China and the Philippines, but shows the persistent cycle of territorial frictions triggered by what some see as China's growing assertiveness in the area.

The South China Sea is potentially the biggest flashpoint for confrontation in Asia, and tensions have risen since the United States adopted a policy last year to reinforce its influence in the region.

At stake is control over what are believed to be significant reserves of oil and gas.

CNOOC, China's offshore oil specialist, said on its website last weekend that it would invite foreign partners to explore jointly and develop nine blocks in the western part of the South China Sea this year.

On Tuesday, Vietnam said CNOOC's plan was "illegal" and the blocks encroached on Vietnamese territorial waters.

At a regular briefing on Wednesday, China's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Hong Lei, insisted that the tenders were in accord with Chinese and international law and urged Vietnam not to escalate the dispute.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard, Judy Hua and David Stanway; Editing by Jeremy Laurence and Robert Birsel)

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Comments (14)
Montpessat wrote:
China should stop bullying its Asian neighbors. You don’t need to be a genius to see that the Spratlys are mostly on Philippine and Bruneian waters and the Paracels are on Vietnamese and Chinese waters. Anything else is just “coveting thy neighbor’s house”. Greed only backfires China.

Jun 28, 2012 7:55am EDT  --  Report as abuse
StigTW wrote:
@Montpessat This certainly isn’t bullying it’s reasserting what they already reasserted to Vietnam in 1976. That China has not withdrawn from the 1947 map and it’s claim to the area goes back nearly 2000 years. Except this time Vietnam wants oil out of the Nansha (Spratly) Islands instead of the Xisha (Paracel) Islands it got booted off last time.
Having combat ready patrols is not a bad idea seeing as Vietnam seems to want to fly warbirds over the area full of mostly chinese fishing vessels and intl cargo.

Jun 28, 2012 8:38am EDT  --  Report as abuse
DifferentOne wrote:
The Chinese dictatorship believes they can resolve this dispute by using military force. But this approach could lead to a long, expensive, destructive military conflict, probably involving the USA as a Philippines’ ally.

China can afford a sophisticated military force because they have grown very rich from their unfair advantage in world trade. They have gained this unfair advantage by manipulating the value of their currency, the yuan (RMB). This has devastated the western industrialized economies.

Obama has repeatedly failed to get tough with China. In contrast, Romney has promised to. But Romney’s election campaign is likely funded by the Israel lobby, and by the Christian right wing. Both groups want China to refrain from exporting nuclear technology to Iran, whom they consider a threat to Israel. Yet Iran is a democracy, existing near neighbors who already have nuclear weapons, including Israel.

If Romney were elected, and pushed China to allow its currency to float freely, China would push back on the Iran issue, as a bargaining chip. “A higher yuan would hurt us economically, and so we would need to export nuclear technology Iran, to compensate”, China would say.

Thus, currency negotiations would fail, as Romney would not want to disappoint his supporters. And China would keep on manipulating the yuan, retaining their unfair advantage in world trade. They could keep on building a more powerful military, to bully their neighbors and seize energy resources by force.

Americans need to wake up and make this an election issue now. Tell Obama and Romney that the time to avert a Pacific war is now. Ask the candidates exactly how they would do that. Ask them how they would persuade China to force their mad dog puppet North Korea to close its brutal prison camps, and stop developing nuclear weapons. And crucially, ask them how exactly they would get China to stop manipulating the yuan.

Jun 28, 2012 8:45am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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