ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
Energy find may be behind China’s behavior
A theory was presented on Friday by Secretary Albert del Rosario of the Department of Foreign Affairs that Beijing’s perceived bullying of Manila and other claimants in the area could only be explained by China apparently discovering fuel fields in the contested waters.
Still, del Rosario said, he did not know exactly why China had suddenly become more aggressive. Except that he “can only speculate that there appears to be some finding of significant natural gas deposits in the area.”
Shipping lanes of the West Philippine Sea, which is said to be potentially rich in oil and minerals, are vital for global trade.
Setting aside speculation, del Rosario urged China to be a “responsible” power, while expressing concern again over the Asian giant’s sudden elbowing out of the Philippines and the other claimant-countries to the disputed islands.
Also staking their sovereignty over parts or the whole of the contested waters are Brunei Darussalam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam.
Nevertheless, del Rosario said that he expected the tensions that escalated recently over rival claims to portions of the South China Sea would not lead to armed conflict.
The Philippines’ Foreign Affairs secretary also on Friday announced that he planned to visit China next week and that he expected to discuss the dispute with Chinese leaders.
“We’re counting on China’s rise and growth and progress as being a responsible one,” del Rosario told reporters.
“I have been invited to go to Beijing and I’m sure we will be looking for peaceful means to be able to settle the challenges that appear to be facing us at this time,” he said.
Del Rosario added that his trip to China was tentatively set for July 7-9, although the dates were yet to be confirmed.
He indicated Philippine President Benigno Aquino 3rd would eventually accept a long-standing invitation by Beijing to visit, although that trip was also not set in stone.
“We’re still trying to discuss the [Aquino] China trip,” del Rosario said.
Tensions in the strategic and resource-rich South China Sea rose in recent weeks, with the Philippines and Vietnam voicing alarm at what they say are increasingly forceful Chinese actions there.
Del Rosario repeated Philippine accusations of Chinese forces opening fire on Filipino fishermen, shadowing an oil exploration vessel employed by a Filipino firm and putting up structures in areas claimed by the Philippines.
While he did not expect the tensions to lead to war, he said that he was counting on the United States to deliver on Secretary Hillary Clinton’s pledge last week to help its Asian ally acquire the means to defend its own territory.
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