(Adds Chinese foreign ministry comment, details)
MANILA, June 16 The Philippines said on Monday
that China's "expansion agenda" in the disputed South China Sea
threatened security and stability in the region, calling on all
claimant states to halt construction activities that may raise
Albert del Rosario, foreign affairs secretary, said he
supported U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia Daniel
Russel's proposal for China and Southeast Asian states to get
together for dialogue.
"Let's call for a moratorium in terms of activities that
escalate tension," del Rosario told ANC Television on Monday.
"Now, let's do that while we work on an expeditious conclusion
of the code of conduct and effective implementation."
Del Rosario said China and other claimant states have been
rushing construction activities in their respective claimed
territories to expand, citing works in Fiery Cross Reef, Johnson
South Reef, Gaven Reef, and Cuarteron Reef.
"They're accelerating their expansion agenda for the
following reasons ... one is they want to do this before the
conclusion of the code of conduct. They're also trying to do
this very quickly in anticipation of the handing down of the
Southeast Asian states have been pressing China to conclude
a Code of Conduct - a set of rules governing naval actions - for
the South China Sea.
Last year, the Philippines filed a case at the U.N. Arbitral
Court in The Hague to clarify its rights to explore and exploit
resources under the U.N. Convention of the Law of the Sea. China
has refused to participate in the case.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said China
had a right to do what it wanted on its islands in the South
China Sea as they were Chinese territory, and criticised the
Philippines for what it called Manila's illegal occupation of
some of the islands and construction work there.
"On the one hand, the Philippines keep making further
provocative moves, and one the other hand make thoughtless
remarks about China's appropriate moves within the scope of our
sovereignty," she told a daily news briefing. "This is totally
China claims 90 percent of the South China Sea, believed to
have huge oil-and-gas deposits and rich in fishery resources.
Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan also have
claims over the sea where about $5 trillion of ship-borne trade
passes every year.
Del Rosario said Chinese construction in the Spratlys was an
attempt to alter the character of the features, converting reefs
into islands to be able to increase maritime entitlements.
China and Vietnam are also involved in an increasingly
bitter spat over the operations of a Chinese oil rig in another
part of the South China Sea, around the Paracel Islands.
China has made Woody Island, which Beijing calls Sansha
city, the hub of its operations on the Paracels, including
building a port and airport facilities there.
(Reporting by Manuel Mogato; and Lara Murallos; Additional
reporting by Ben Blanchard in BEIJING; Editing by Jeremy