MANILA, Philippines -- (UPDATE) It was not a warship, but a "fishery patrol boat," that went to the disputed Spratly islands, the Chinese embassy here said Monday.
Hua Ye, embassy spokesperson, also told INQUIRER.net in a phone interview that the action was meant to "enhance fishery protection and maritime surveillance."
Asked if China?s dispatch of such a vessel was an act of aggression, Hua said: ?Of course not.? She said it was also not a violation of the ASEAN-China Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC).
Hua Ye also said having a patrol boat in the area was a regular
activity, and not a reaction to the signing of the baselines bill into law last week.
The Department of Foreign Affairs said the passage of the Baselines Act was allowed by international norms. ?The Philippines adheres to the 2002 DOC and urges all parties to adhere to this as well,? it said in a one-sentence reaction to China?s deployment.
The dispatch of the Chinese vessel in the area also came after a standoff between United States destroyers and other Chinese vessels last week.
Immediately after President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed the measure defining the territorial borders of the country, China reiterated its protest against the bill, which it called ?illegal and invalid.?
But in Friday?s meeting between the newly appointed Ambassador to the Philippines Liu Jianchao and Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo, they agreed to continue to dialogue and cooperate on trying to resolve the contentious issue.
On Thursday, Chinese assistant foreign minister Hu Zhengyue summoned Philippine Ambassador to China Sonia Brady to renew its protest of the baselines act which placed the Spratlys and the Paracel islands under the Regime of Islands in compliance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas.
Hua Ye confirmed this meeting.
Parts of the Spratlys, believed to be rich in marine and mineral resources, are being claimed in part or in whole by the Philippines, China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and Taiwan.
The ASEAN-China Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea prohibits certain acts that can raise tension in the region like occupying previously unoccupied islands and shoals.