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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs        6  June 2011

Philippines scolds China

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The Philippines, along with Vietnam, criticized recent Chinese military activity in the South China Sea amid fears that small confrontations in disputed areas there could lead to armed conflict.

Philippine Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin told a security forum attended by China's Defense Minister Liang Guanglie on June 5 that "actions by other states . . . unnecessarily make other states like the Philippines worried and concerned."

"Such sense of insecurity also results when ordinary fishermen are warned by foreign vessels prompting them to leave the area," he said.

Gazmin's remarks came after Manila on Saturday accused China of undermining peace and stability in Asia by allegedly sending naval vessels to intimidate rival claimants to the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.

Manila has also queried Beijing over plans reported in Chinese state media to install an oil rig in the area.

Gazmin said that "insecurity is generated when materials for possibly constructing certain structures are found in areas where a declaration has been made to refrain from putting up such kinds of structure or infrastructure."

He was speaking after Liang told the forum that China was committed to "peace and stability" in the South China Sea.

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates had told the conference on Saturday that clashes may erupt unless nations with conflicting claims adopt a mechanism to settle disputes peacefully.

The Spratly and Paracel archipelagos, believed to hold major oil and gas reserves, are claimed in whole or in part by Brunei, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

Vietnam's Defense Minister Phung Quang Thanh told the Singapore meeting that "we expect China to honor the policies that they announced" and expressed hope that the statements "translate into reality."

"I fully propose that we must exercise restraint and patience and commitment to solve these issues, these differences, by peaceful means. We must strictly observe the DOC," he said.

The Vietnamese general was referring to the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, a pact signed in 2002 by China and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).

Asean groups Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand, Singapore and Vietnam.

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This year in Thailand-what next?

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It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

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