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Ex-Chinese general wants retaliation vs Philippines

Posted at | Updated as of 05/13/14 6:17 AM

Retired Chinese PLA Major General Luo Yuan.

MANILA - A retired Chinese military general known for his hardline views urged Beijing on Monday to retaliate against the Philippines over the arrest of 11 Chinese fishermen caught poaching marine turtles near Palawan.

Retired People's Liberation Army (PLA) Major General Luo Yuan, in an online commentary, said Beijing should respond "tooth for tooth, eye for eye, to take 'further measures.'"

He said despite China's demands, the Philippine government has refused to release the fishermen and their ship and even brought them to court.

"Perhaps the Philippines simply did not take our warnings seriously," he said.

He specifically mentioned Ayungin Shoal, where Philippine Marines are deployed, as a pressure point that China can use.

"First, we should arrest illegal invaders (who) occupy our territory. [Ayungin Shoal is] not no man's land, not [a] sanctuary, but [a] tourist spot. It is our territory. We have actual jurisdiction over it," Luo said.

He said China should order Philippine troops to immediately leave the shoal.

"Otherwise, we will have a variety of means 'to clear' [the area]," Luo said. "I think the international community should understand."

Philippine Marines on board the BRP Sierra Madre are guarding Ayungin, which is also called the Second Thomas Shoal. The ship was grounded on the shoal as a way for Philippines to reiterate its claim on the area.

Last March 29, Chinese Coast Guard ships tried to block a Philippine civilian vessel carrying food and water for the soldiers stationed at the BRP Sierra Madre.

Luo also said Beijing should use various "political, economic, diplomatic, legal" means to pressure Manila. He said this includes wielding China's clout and influence in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Luo said if indeed the Chinese fishermen were poaching marine turtles, the incident should be handled by China and not the Philippines.

He claimed that Manila cannot arrest the fishermen under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and the ASEAN Declaration on Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.

"Even in the disputed waters you have no right to arrest people," said Luo, who is currently vice-president of a Beijing-based think-tank consisting of retired military officers.

"We have maintained a great deal of restraint and patience. [The] Philippines invaded our eight reefs, and is now arresting our fishermen. When are we going to fight back?" he said.

He also warned the United States against interfering.

Luo said US treaties with Spain, the United Kingdom and the Philippines do not include the disputed maritime areas.

In 2012, Luo urged China to launch a "decisive action" against the Philippines to reinforce Beijing's claim on the disputed Scarborough Shoal.

Yuan said China has not abandoned the idea of "war at all costs" to protect its interests.

"'Peaceful rise and 'period of strategic opportunity' preclude war," said Luo, who has been described by Western media as "hawkish" for his ultranationalist views.

"It is incorrect to assume that China will completely rule out military action in any event during this 'period of strategic opportunity,'" he said, referring to Beijing's dispute with Manila.

"To safeguard our sovereign and territory rights, we will never hesitate to face up to any military challenge," he added.

He also believes that Filipinos won't go up against China's military firepower.

"Also, considering the relative military strengths of China and the Philippines, the Filipino people can judge for themselves the wisdom or otherwise of their government's decision to take this stand against China," he warned.

China currently has de facto control over Scarborough Shoal.

While his comments do not represent official policy and the PLA is only serving at the beck and call of China's Communist Party, officer-analysts like Luo have been given some leeway to strike a tougher tone in their comments, according to a report from Reuters.