MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines said Monday it would officially take its concerns over an increasingly tense territorial dispute with China to the United States, its key military ally.
The Philippines and China have been locked in a standoff over competing claims to the Scarborough Shoal, a small group of islands in the South China Sea, for more than two weeks with both sides stationing vessels there.
With China ratcheting up the pressure, the Philippines planned to seek counsel from the United States during top-level meetings in Washington next week, foreign affairs department spokesman Raul Hernandez said.
“What we are saying is that maybe they (US) should be apprised of what is happening in the Scarborough issue,” Hernandez told reporters.
“What is happening in the Scarborough Shoal poses a potential threat not only to the Philippines but to other countries … who use it for navigation and unimpeded commerce.”
He said the Philippines would formally raise the issue during the so-called “2+2″ talks between Foreign Secretary Alberto del Rosario and Defence Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and their US counterparts, Hillary Clinton and Leon Panetta.
Hernandez said he could not say exactly what the Philippines’ objective was in raising the issue with the United States.
But the talks in Washington are expected to serve as an avenue for the Philippine government to seek more help for its armed forces, considered to be among the region’s weakest and poorly resourced, officials said previously.
The two nations are also bound by a mutual defence pact in which the United States has pledged to come to the aid of its weaker ally if it faces military aggression.
The Philippines’ move could further anger China, which has insisted the United States should have no role in the dispute.
The Philippines’ announcement came after the Global Times, a newspaper run by China’s ruling Communist Party, warned in an editorial at the weekend of a potential “small-scale war” to end the Scarborough Shoal stand-off.
“Once the war erupts, China must take resolute action to deliver a clear message to the outside world it does not want a war, but definitely has no fear of it,” the editorial said.
China claims the entire West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), even up to the coasts of the Philippines and other Southeast Asian countries.
The stand-off with the Philippines began when Chinese vessels blocked Filipino attempts to arrest the crew of eight Chinese fishing boats at Scarborough Shoal.
The shoal is about 230 kilometres (140 miles) from the Philippines’ main island of Luzon, and
The nearest Chinese land mass from Panatag Shoal (internationally called Scarborough Shoal) is Hainan province, 1,200 kilometres to the northwest, according to Philippine naval maps.