China has acknowledged sending additional ships to the territory it disputes with the Philippines in the South China Sea but is blaming Manila for the escalation. China on Thursday called the Philippines “insincere” in wanting to resolve a two-month standoff about a disputed island in the South China Sea.
China’s Foreign Ministry cited unspecified provocative actions by Manila around the Scarborough Shoal. At the same time, spokesman Hong Lei acknowledged sending more ships to the rocky islands, known as Huangyan in China, to strengthen its control.
China has indisputable sovereignty over Huangyan Island, he said. Ships there are government vessels and conduct maritime surveillance and provide some guarantee to the fishing boats. By providing such assurance, Hong said Chinese fishermen can operate freely there.
The Scarborough Shoal has been the site of a standoff since April when a Philippine warship tried to stop Chinese fishing boats. Chinese surveillance ships blacked them from being detained and the two sides have since engaged in a war of words.
The arrival of more Chinese ships demonstrates how Beijing’s naval capabilities compare to the Philippines, said Carl Thayer, professor at the Australian Defense Force Academy.
“The arrival of other ships puts enormous pressure on the Philippines which, in the best of times, its coast guard is lucky to have one ship in good repair out at sea,” he said. “But to station a boat up at the Scarborough Shoal, far removed from the Spratly islands and other areas where it should be patrolling, puts a strain on the resources and also on the capability. So, it looks like China is supplying extraordinary pressure -a ll non-violent, not threatening – to demonstrate its sovereignty,” said Thayer.
Chinese authorities acknowledged about 20 fishing boats are in the area, despite a temporary self-imposed fishing ban. The Philippines say the Chinese fishermen are violating the ban.
Thayer said if China was serious about replenishing fish stocks, it would pull back the boats instead of adding more. But Chinese boats often violate Beijing’s fishing restrictions, he said. “If we go back several years, during a fishing ban Taiwan reported that large numbers of mainland Chinese boats were showing up off Traipsing Island that it controlled. Last year, Vietnam reported up to a 200 fishing boats were intruding in its waters in central Vietnam.”
The Scarborough Shoal is about 230 kilometers northwest of the Philippines, but China claims not only them but most of the South China Sea.