Benigno Aquino, president of the Philippines, has warned that Beijing may seek to repeat its tactics of exploring for oil in disputed areas of the South China Sea, this time in waters close to the Philippine coast.
In an interview with the Financial Times, Mr Aquino said China was playing a “dangerous game of brinkmanship and gunboat diplomacy” that could spiral out of control.
The president said he had received reports about the intrusion by a Chinese research ship near the Philippine oilfield of Galoc about 60 miles off the coast of the island province of Palawan. “Normally what happens to Vietnam eventually happens to the Philippines,” he said, referring to a pattern of escalation by Beijing against countries with which it has territorial disputes.
China this month started drilling for hydrocarbons in waters disputed with Vietnam. Its deployment of a drilling rig, backed by a flotilla of more than 100 ships, triggered a wave of violent anti-Chinese riots across southern Vietnam.
Mr Aquino said he was alarmed that a hotline that was supposed to have been established between Hanoi and Beijing failed. When Vietnam tried to communicate with China about the drilling “there was no response at any level.”
Stressing that he did not want to provoke China, he urged Beijing to avoid unilateral actions that he said contravened a 2002 declaration of conduct it had signed. He said the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, some of which have overlapping territorial claims with China, should present a “stronger and clearer voice” about how to resolve such disputes in line with international law.
Beijing has sought to deal with each country bilaterally and has resisted efforts to “internationalise” the process.
Last week, Nguyen Tan Dung, Vietnam’s prime minister, said Hanoi was considering following the Philippine route of taking China to international courts. Mr Aquino, who discussed the Philippine legal case with Mr Dung in Manila last week, said he would welcome a legal challenge by Vietnam.
Manila has pledged to make its legal experts available to advise Hanoi on the mechanics of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos) arbitration process in The Hague. China is a signatory of Unclos but does not recognise the court’s jurisdiction in such disputes.
上周，越南总理阮晋勇(Nguyen Tan Dung)表示，越南政府正考虑效仿菲律宾的做法，将中国告上国际法庭。阿基诺三世上周在马尼拉与阮晋勇讨论了菲律宾的诉讼理由，他表示欢迎越南提起诉讼。