China hoist with its own petard when warning Philippine fighter aircraft in the Bien Dong Sea (South China Sea)

The Philippine military is sending light fighter aircraft to fly over hundreds of Chinese vessels in disputed waters in the Bien Dong Sea (internationally called South China Sea). Chinese experts said the action " might inflame tensions and risk accidents", is China hoist with its own petard?
March 29, 2021 | 16:46
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Chinese ships in formation anchored in an area in the South China Sea - Screenshot

The Philippine military is sending light fighter aircraft to fly over hundreds of Chinese vessels in disputed waters in the Bien Dong Sea (internationally called South China Sea), its defence minister said, as he repeated his demand the flotilla be withdrawn immediately.

International concern is growing over what the Philippines has described as a “swarming and threatening presence” of more than 200 Chinese vessels that Manila believes were manned by maritime militia, said Scmp.

The boats were moored at the Whitsun Reef within Manila’s 321-kilometre exclusive economic zone.

The Philippine military aircraft were sent daily to monitor the situation, Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said in a statement late on Saturday.

Chinese experts said the action " might inflame tensions and risk accidents", is China hoist with its own petard?

It is said by the Chinese state-run Global Times that: " The daily flybys by Philippine fighter aircraft over Chinese fishing boats taking shelter from the weather near a Chinese reef in the South China Sea are inappropriate, and might inflame tensions and risk accidents, Chinese experts said on Sunday."

Philippine military chief Lieutenant General Cirilito Sobejana confirmed Monday, 22 March that the ships were still in the area and the Philippines was making an accounting of the exact number of vessels.

While a Chinese military experts told the Global Times on Sunday that " it is inappropriate to claim they are a Chinese maritime militia because it is normal for fishermen from any country to take shelter in nearby islands and reefs in complicated and changing maritime situations".

Actually, the Philippines Coast Guard announced earlier that some 220 vessels, believed to be manned by Chinese maritime militia personnel, were seen operating near a reef in the Bien Dong Sea (South China Sea) on March 7. The vessels kept the light on overnight, but have not engaged in any fishing activities despite the convenient weather.

The U.S. Embassy has said it shared the concerns of the Philippines and accused China of using "maritime militia to intimidate, provoke, and threaten other nations, which undermines peace and security in the region."

Also, we know that an international tribunal in 2016 invalidated China’s claim to 90 percent of the South China Sea, but Beijing does not recognize the ruling. China has in recent years built islands in the waters, putting air strips on some of them.

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Overview of Whitsun Reef in the South China Sea and Chinese vessels moored in the waters surrounding the boomerang-shaped coral reef on March 23. Satellite image ©2021 Maxar Technologies

It is cited on the npr.org that: China has provoked international alarm by massing ships in the South China Sea near a reef claimed by both China and the Philippines. This week, Manila formally protested what it called a violation of "its sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction." The United States and Western allies backed the Philippine call for China to immediately withdraw what appears to be a flotilla of fishing vessels.

The presence of Chinese ships in Whitsun Reef in Truong Sa (Spratly) islands in the South China Sea constitutes a serious violation of Vietnam’s sovereignty.

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Chinese vessels in the Whitsun Reef, Union Bank, Bien Dong Sea (South China Sea). Photo: AFP/VNA

Vietnamese Foreign Affairs' spokesperson Le Thi Thu Hang made the comment on Thursday 25 March during a regular press briefing in Hanoi the reports 220 Chinese vessels – believed to be manned by maritime militia – moored at a shallow reef known as Whitsun Reef (called D Ba Dau in Vietnamese), part of the Union Bank (or Cum Sinh Ton) in the South China Sea (called Bien Dong Sea in Vietnam).

“It must be reiterated that Vietnam has sufficient legal basis and historical evidence to assert its sovereignty over the Spratly islands in line with international law,” the Vietnamese diplomat said.

“As a coastal country and a member signatory of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), Vietnam fully enjoys sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction over these waters as identified in accordance with UNCLOS,” she continued.

All Chinese ships’ activities in the territorial seas in the reef off the Spratly islands are a severe violation of Vietnam’s sovereignty, and violation of UNCLOS on the activities of foreign ships within the territorial seas of littoral countries, Hang said, adding that they go against the spirit and content of the Declaration on the Conduct of the Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), complicate the situation, and prove detrimental to the negotiations of the Code of Conduct of the Parties in the South China Sea (COC) between ASEAN and China.

“Vietnam urges that China cease all violations, respect the sovereignty of Vietnam, adhere to 1982 UNCLOS in good will, and comply with DOC, particularly the responsibility to exercise restraint and avoid further complicate situation, and foster an environment conducive to the negotiations of COC, contributing to the maintenance of peace, stability, security, and the maritime rules-based order in the region,” the Spokesperson noted.

Regarding the reports on the presence of Vietnamese law enforcement vessels in the Whitsun Reef area, the spokesperson stressed that “the law enforcement units of Vietnam carry out the missions and duties as provided in the related laws of Vietnam, in line with international law, especially 1982 UNCLOS.”

In conclusion, China should have stopped its violation of Vietnam’s sovereigntyin the Bien Dong Sea for the peace and stability in the area unless China " might inflame tensions and risk accidents" as per words said by Chinese experts.

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