MANILA, Philippines – The Chinese army has vowed to protect their country’s interests in the disputed Scarborough Shoal, China’s defense spokesperson said in response to a question on whether the mainland will send warships to the area.
“China’s military forces will collaborate closely with related governing bodies, including fishery administration and maritime law enforcement, to jointly ensure the country’s maritime rights and interests,” said Defense Ministry spokesperson Geng Yansheng, whose statements appeared Friday, April 27, in the state-run China Daily.
“The Chinese armed forces have persisted in implementing their mission under the unified deployment of the nation,” Geng added. This is the Chinese military’s first official remark on the Scarborough Shoal standoff, China Daily noted.
Chinese defense minister Liang Guanglie, however, earlier said China will undertake military action “in accordance with China’s overall diplomacy (needs).” “We believe the confrontation can be solved through diplomacy,” Liang said.
Geng, meanwhile, refused to confirm nor deny reports that China has sent a nuclear-powered submarine to the South China Sea, according to China Daily.
If China sends a warship to Scarborough Shoal, it will be its first time to do so in the ongoing tension.
When the tension broke out, it was the Philippines that sent its biggest warship, BRP Gregorio del Pilar, to Scarborough Shoal. The better equipped China, on the other hand, only sent 2 maritime surveillance ships to rescue 8 Chinese fishing boats accosted by the Philippine Navy.
Then, in a move seen as an effort to defuse tension in Scarborough Shoal, the Philippines pulled out BRP Gregorio del Pilar from the area 2 days after the standoff began.
This early, an expert is warning the Philippines, as well as other countries involved, of the costs of a conflict in the South China Sea.
A comparison alone of the Philippine and Chinese armed forces “suggests a very uneven contest,” said Asian Institute of Management professor Ronald Mendoza in a Thought Leaders piece for Rappler.
Based on the latest data compiled by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the breakdown of their troops is as follows:
air force – 15,000 for the Philippines; 315,000 for China
navy – 24,000 for the Philippines; 255,000 for China
army – 86,000 for the Philippines; 1,600,000 for China
“It is easy enough to declare war, but very costly to wage it (especially if you plan to win),” Mendoza said.
Instead of facing China’s military might, the Philippines has said it prefers a diplomatic solution to the issue. One of the possible solutions, the “great equalizer” in the Philippines’ view, is to bring the dispute to the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea – something China has rejected.
More US help
Next week, Philippine officials will go to the United States for top-level meetings in Washington, which will cover the ongoing Scarborough Shoal standoff.
The Philippines said Thursday it will seek more US military help, as it ignored China’s warning not to “internationalize” the territorial dispute. “We are going to the United States in order to be able to maximize the benefits derived out of this mutual defense treaty,” Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said.
China, for its part, said it hopes the US will adopt a “reasonable” position on the dispute.
Earlier, Chinese experts said China is the “imaginary target” of the ongoing Balikatan war games between the Philippines and the United States. (Watch video report on the war games below.)
Philippine authorities, however, have repeatedly stressed the timing of the war games purely coincides with the Scarborough Shoal standoff. – Rappler.com