China urges Philippines to withdraw

Updated: 2012-04-17 06:53


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MANILA - China on Monday urged the Philippines to withdraw all of its vessels from Huangyan Island area to restore peace and stability in the region.

Zhang Hua, spokesman of the Chinese Embassy to the Philippines, made the call while answering questions concerning Huangyan Island.

In response to a question as to the Philippine side asserting that another Chinese surveillance ship arrived in the Huangyan Island area on Saturday, Zhang said that Chinese public service vessels were conducting legitimate patrols there for law enforcement.

"The incident is resulted from the infringement by the Philippine Navy Flagship Gregorio del Pilar, and the Philippines' coast guard vessels still remain there," Zhang said. "In this context, the Chinese public service vessels have to stay there to watch out the situation."

On China's stance on the incident of Huangyan Island, Zhang said that the Chinese side holds that peace and stability should be maintained at Huangyan Island, with fishing undisturbed.

"China and the Philippines have differences over the sovereignty of Huangyan Island, but after several rounds of consultations, both sides agreed not to do anything to complicate or aggravate the situation," Zhang said.

Since the incident happened, China has been in contact with Philippine officials at various levels in Beijing and Manila, including Foreign Secretary Del Rosario, Zhang said. Both sides, he said, have agreed to settle the incident through diplomatic means.

In view of the complex situation in the area, Zhang noted that China's fishing boats left on April 13 in order to help defuse the situation.

The Philippine side, however, has not withdrawn its ships, Zhang said, adding that as of 2 pm local time (0800 GMT) Monday, there were still boats remaining in the area.

"Unexpectedly, an archaeological vessel was found in the lagoon conducting salvage archaeology," he said. "This infringes on China's rights, and violates relevant international conventions. These above activities by the Philippine side raised further grave concerns of the Chinese side on the situation there."

On the Philippines' claim on the sovereignty of Huangyan Island, the spokesman said the island is an integral part of China's territory. It is China that first discovered the island, gave it its name, incorporated it into its territory and exercised jurisdiction over it.

The Philipines' claim of jurisdiction and sovereignty rights over Huangyan Island with the arguments of Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) is groundless, he said, citing international law, including United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

UNCLOS allows coastal states to claim a 200-nautical-mile EEZ, but coastal states have no right to infringe on the inherent territory and sovereignty of other countries, he said.

The Philippines asserts that Huangyan Island is closer to its territory, but in fact "geographical proximity" has long been dismissed by the international law and practice as the principle of the solution of territory ownership, the spokesman said.

With regard to how the situation will develop, the spokesman said that China stands ready to engage in further discussions with the Philippine side and try its best to settle the incident properly.