Tensions escalate in South China sea between China and Philippines
Chinese are accused of illegal fishing there, gunboats deployed.
The Philippine government has sent the Gregorio del Pilar to the South China Sea along with a coast guard vessel to apprehend Chinese fishing boats.
The island chain that is the subject of dispute are the Pantang Islands (to the Philippines) or Huangyan Islands (to the Chinese).
Tensions were sparked last Sunday when it was reported that Chinese fishing vessels were spotted in Philippine waters. When authorities moved to investigate on Tuesday, a pair of Chinese surveillance vessels intervened, positioning themselves between the fishing boats and the Philippine warship.
Philippine authorities say the Chinese are illegally fishing in the area and they want to arrest the fishermen. Chinese media is reporting that the boats were merely sheltering there because of bad weather. They added the surveillance vessels were protecting "Chinese national maritime interests and rights."
Both countries have said they prefer a diplomatic solution to the current crisis and neither side appears ready to come to blows over the incident. However, China is unlikely to allow the Philippine Navy to apprehend their sailors.
Both sides are also pledging to protect their rights to the islands.
The Chinese are also accusing the US of stoking controversy by encouraging both the Philippines and Vietnam to "take more risks" in the region - risks which China says will contribute to tension. Chinese media did not elaborate on what those "risks" actually were.
Meanwhile, US and Philippine forces both on land and at sea are cooperating in annual military exercises. The Philippine has promised those exercises will not occur in contested waters and will remain entirely in Philippine sovereign territory.
© 2012, Catholic Online. Distributed by NEWS CONSORTIUM.
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General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
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Keywords: China, Philippines, fishing, Scarborough Shoals, tensions, conflict
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