Opinion / Editorials

Manila's premeditated ploy

(China Daily) Updated: 2014-05-16 08:01

In a reckless move that further undermined the peace in the region, the Philippines detained 11 Chinese fishermen and their boat near China's Half Moon Shoal in the South China Sea on the grounds that they had poached sea turtles.

No matter whether the allegation is true or not, Manila is in the wrong because China has indisputable sovereign rights over the Nansha Islands and the adjacent waters, including the Half Moon Shoal, where the incident occurred, says a Xinhua News Agency commentary.

Thus any actions taken by the Philippines against the Chinese fishermen are illegal and invalid and can be regarded as direct infringements on China's sovereignty.

The incident happened not long after US President Barack Obama visited Manila, during which the United States and the Philippines reasserted their military alliance, and just days before the annual summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, during which the emboldened Philippines, together with Vietnam, launched a failed bid to pit the regional bloc against Beijing.

This joint approach came after a Philippine naval delegation's beer drinking and volleyball playing with Vietnamese sailors in the South China Sea in April, which was widely interpreted as a sign of the two countries' budding double act.

But that kind of ill-disposed joint venture is built on shaky ground and is doomed to fail.

While reiterating calls for peaceful settlement of the disputes and joint development of resources, China has also made it clear that it is confident and capable of countering challenges to its territorial and sovereign integrity.

All parties should be reminded that ignorance of China's resolve to defend its sovereign land will induce consequences too severe for certain countries to bear.

Meanwhile, the wish to maintain regional peace and stability is shared by China and the majority of ASEAN members.

The US, which is strengthening its military alliance with Manila and has a huge stake in the region's stability, should comply with its promise to leave the countries concerned to settle their differences through bilateral talks.

Instead of spoiling its increasingly paranoid junior ally and muddying the waters, Washington should keep Manila within bounds and try not to stir up tensions by backing its reckless stunts.

After all, it won't serve Washington's interests if the dispute in the South China Sea spins out of control.

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