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Message-ID: <199811130820.DAA28836@access2.digex.net>
Date: Fri, 13 Nov 1998 03:20:53 -0500
Reply-To: Southeast Asia Discussion List <SEASIA-L@LIST.MSU.EDU>
Sender: Southeast Asia Discussion List <SEASIA-L@LIST.MSU.EDU>
From: Alex G Bardsley <bardsley@ACCESS.DIGEX.NET>
Subject: Fwd: PH: Ties with China calm despite Spratlys dispute (StraitsTimes)

X-URL: http://straitstimes.asia1.com/pages/sea3_1113.html

China-Philippine ties calm despite dispute

From The Straits Times
13 November 1998

Things are brewing in the Mischief Reef in the Spratlys again. The two sides are watching each other, but trying to resolve the tiff peaceably

MANILA -- Relations between the Philippines and China remain calm, despite a dispute over a group of islands in the South China Sea, Foreign Affairs spokesman Oscar Valenzuela said yesterday. The Foreign Affairs office is working closely with its Chinese counterparts to firm up details of President Joseph Estrada's talks with Chinese leader Jiang Zemin at next week's Apec summit in Malaysia, he added.

"Despite what the international media and the local media are saying, what is important is what is taking place between our two governments and that until now, our exchanges have been calm," he told the DZBB radio station.

Armed forces chief-of-staff Major-General Joselin Nazareno on Wednesday said that he had ordered navy ships in the area to fire warning shots to deter Chinese ships from venturing too close.

President Joseph Estrada had sent more navy and air force patrols to Mischief Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands last week, after Beijing rejected as "groundless" a diplomatic protest lodged by Manila over Chinese activity on the coral reef.

Mr Valenzuela stressed that the Philippines would continue to seek a peaceful solution to the problem.

He said Beijing's request for air force jets not to fly too low over the reef was done in "a friendly manner".

"They were just worried that if an accident were to happen because the planes were flying too low, there might be finger-pointing," he said.

Maj-Gen Nazareno said he had instructed the air force not to fly lower than 1,525 m to avoid any untoward incident, stressing that "this is not a war, but a very heated diplomatic debate".

Four reconnaissance planes and several navy vessels have been monitoring several Chinese fishing vessels in the area, he added.

While the present situation was "between China and the Philippines", the government would continue to hold discussions with other claimants of the islands, Mr Valenzuela said.

The Spratly Islands, which straddle vital shipping lanes and are believed to contain rich mineral and oil deposits, are also being claimed in whole or in part by Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam and Brunei.

In 1995, China and the Philippines were locked in a similar dispute over Mischief Reef when fishermen discovered permanent Chinese structures there. Beijing claimed the structures were only fishing shelters.

Both nations have since signed a "code of conduct" against the building of any more structures in the area and called for a peaceful solution to any dispute arising from the islands.-AFP

Copyright 1998 Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. All rights reserved.


13. http://straitstimes.asia1.com/pages/sea2_1113.html
14. http://straitstimes.asia1.com/pages/sea4_1113.html

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