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Philippines warns of defending itself if attacked by Chinese vessels in South China Sea

Manila, Thu, 12 Apr 2012 ANI

Manila, Apr 12(ANI): The Philippines has warned that it would defend itself if attacked following a standoff between a Philippine warship and two Chinese surveillance vessels over fishing rights in the South China Sea.

Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said he has met Chinese Ambassador Ma Keqing and reaffirmed their governments' positions that the Scarborough Shoal, where the ships are facing off, was part of their country's territory.

"The ambassador of China took the view that they have full sovereignty over the Scarborough Shoal. So, in a sense, we had reached an impasse in terms of our positions. And so there's a real challenge for us in terms of our agreement to keep on talking today," The Wall Street Journal quoted del Rosario, as saying.

But Philippine President Benigno Aquino III has demanded for peace in the heavily fished and potentially energy-rich sea.

Both sides' navies encountered each other after the Philippine vessel attempted to arrest the crew of several Chinese fishing boats anchored at the Scarborough Shoal, off the Philippines' northwest coast, which is also claimed by China.

The Philippine government said Chinese surveillance vessels intervened to prevent any arrests and added that Filipino sailors who inspected the Chinese vessels found illegally collected corals and live sharks in one of the fishing boats.

The Chinese Embassy's statement has, however, claimed that 12 fishing boats had sought shelter from a storm in a lagoon.

"Two Chinese marine surveillance ships are in this area fulfilling the duties of safeguarding Chinese maritime rights and interests," the statement said, adding that the shoal "is an integral part of the Chinese territory and the waters around the traditional fishing area for Chinese fishermen."

"We hope the Philippines can focus on China-Philippines friendship, peace and stability and won't make new disturbances," a Foreign Ministry spokesperson Liu Weimin said. (ANI)

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