China belittles Aquino's Scarborough stand

by Jojo Malig,

Posted at Jul 27 2012 05:52 AM | Updated as of Jul 28 2012 05:08 AM

Chinese ships to stay at Scarborough

China pursues military garrison plan

MANILA, Philippines - President Benigno Aquino's 2012 State of the Nation Address (SONA) calling on China to respect Philippine sovereignty has no effect on Beijing's claim to the disputed Scarborough Shoal in the West Philippine Sea, a Chinese Foreign Ministry official said.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei, in a statement, said the Philippines should just "do more" to ease the tension between the 2 countries.

He said the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) will not settle the dispute.

"The facts and truths about the Huangyan Island incident have been clear. The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) is not the legal basis to determine the territorial sovereignty of the Huangyan Island and cannot change the fact that the island belongs to China," Hong said.

He issued the statement Wednesday, which the Chinese Foreign Ministry made available online late Thursday night.

President Benigno Aquino, during his SONA on Monday, said the Philippines will not give up its claim on Scarborough Shoal.

"Mayroon po tayong mga miron na nagsasabing hayaan na lang ang Bajo de Masinloc; umiwas na lang tayo. Pero kung may pumasok sa inyong bakuran at sinabing sa kanya na ang kanyang kinatatayuan ay sa kanya na, papayag ba kayo? Hindi naman po yata tamang ipamigay na lang natin sa iba ang sadyang atin talaga," he said.

Hong reiterated Beijing's stand that bilateral talks, and not multilateral discussions, will end the row between the two countries.

He also said that the tension in the waters of Scarborough Shoal has eased off.

Chinese ships will not leave Scarborough: ICG

According a Philippine military source, Chinese government ships have not left Scarborough Shoal, even months after the stand-off between Manila and Beijing. 

Two Chinese Maritime Surveillance ships and a Fisheries Law Enforcement Command ship have been seen this week in the shoal, which the Philippines also calls as Panatag or Bajo de Masinloc.

Chinese state media said the vessels are protecting Chinese fishing ships heading to the waters of the West Philippine Sea.

Many of Chinese fishing vessels have installed the Beidou navigation system, China's version of the US Global Positioning System (GPS) to allow the ships to easily contact maritime authorities when they need help.

The International Crisis Group (ICG), in its latest analysis on the West Philippine Sea tension, said it does not expect Chinese government ships to leave Scarborough Shoal.

"Chinese law enforcement vessels have remained near Scarborough Shoal and have shown no sign of leaving the area ever since. Some Chinese military experts have dubbed this strategy the 'Scarborough Shoal' model," the Brussels-based organization said.

China names officers to lead military garrison

Meanwhile, China's Ministry of Defense named on Thursday 2 military officers who will have direct command of People's Liberation Army (PLA) troops in its Sansha city garrison in the West Philippine Sea.

The garrison will be under the command of Col. Cai Xihong, with Col. Liao Chaoyi as its political commissar, Ministry of Defense spokesman Yang Yujun said.

The new military garrison has triggered protests from the Philippines and Vietnam, with Manila summoning China's ambassador and Hanoi filing a formal protest with Beijing.

In response to the protests and criticisms from the United States about the garrison plan, Yang said other countries cannot interfere in what China does in its own territory.

The new military garrison, which will be based on Woody Island in the Paracels, will be responsible for the mobilization of soldiers and militia reserves for security and disaster relief work in the city of Sansha, Yang said.

The city was earlier set up to govern all of China's claimed territories in the Spratlys, the Paracels, the Macclesfield Bank undersea atoll and surrounding waters.

Yong said the Sansha military garrison will be under the Hainan Military Command, while another garrison earlier set up Xisha in the West Philippine Sea, is under the Chinese People's Liberary Army Navy's Nanhai Fleet.

He said the Xisha garrison will handle maritime defense and military combat, according to state news agency agency Xinhua.

Major General Luo Yuan is one of the most outspoken officers in the Chinese People's Liberation Army.  He is described by Western media as "hawkish" for his ultranationalist and aggressive views. Photo courtesy of China Military Report

'Sansha garrison will deter other countries'

People's Liberation Army (PLA) Major General Luo Yuan, in a commentary published Thursday on the website of China's defense ministry, said the Sansha Garrison Command was established "to deter countries coveting for national sovereignty of China."

Luo, who earlier proposed "decisive military action" to break the China-Philippines standoff at Scarborough, said the garrison command will boost Chinese troops' joint combat capabilities in the West Philippine Sea. 

He said after garrison is established, China's leadership must next set rules on which ships and aircraft from other countries will be allowed to pass through the region's disputed waters and airspace without being attacked by Chinese military forces.

Luo, who is described by Western media as "hawkish" for his hardline views,  also wants the garrison to serve as the overall command of all Chinese goverment agencies and military task forces deployed in the West Philippine Sea. 

"In other words, the garrison command functions more like a tentacle for the front-line of national defense, performing such functions as the front-line command, a frontier position, and a front sentry post," he said.

He said other countries should view the military garrison as a "deterrence" and not as a threat.

"It is completely necessary for us to clearly distinguish the difference between the concepts of 'threat' and 'deterrence.' China never 'threats" [sic] another country, but it is necessary for us to maintain effective 'deterrence' against those countries with inordinate ambition towards our national territories," said Luo, who currently serves as researcher for the PLA and is vice secretary-general of China Association for Military Science.

"The establishment of the garrison command serves exactly to produce the deterring and threatening effects so that those countries coveting our national sovereignty will be discouraged and step back," he added.