Philippines Facing Down China Warships

Both countries vow diplomatic response, but tensions high
By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 11, 2012 4:50 AM CDT
The Philippines sent in the BRP Gregorio Del Pilar, pictured here last year, to intercept Chinese vessels believed to be illegally fishing in Philippine waters.   (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

(Newser) – A warship from the Philippines and two Chinese surveillance vessels are squaring off in the latest territorial dispute in the South China Sea, reports the Wall Street Journal. The confrontation began when a Philippine surveillance plane spotted eight Chinese fishing boats anchored in a lagoon in the Scarborough Shoal over the weekend, so the navy sent its newest warship, a US Hamilton-class cutter, to arrest the fishing boat crews. The Philippine navy investigated the boats yesterday, so China responded by sending in two surveillance ships, leading to the current standoff.

Philippine officials have now summoned China's ambassador, and both countries have pledged to resolve the issue diplomatically—but no one is showing any signs of backing down. Filipino sailors who inspected the Chinese ships reported seeing illegally gathered coral and sharks. "This is part of larger pattern. These new standoffs are coming to light only because we are better positioned to stand up to China now," said a Philippine military official. China has long had territorial disputes with the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, and other countries in the resource-rich South China Sea.

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