All will lose in any SCS war — Vietnam leader
Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang warned yesterday there would be no winners in any armed conflict sparked by territorial disputes in the South China Sea.
Quang, who is on a state visit to Singapore, told a forum that recent developments there were threatening regional security.
The Vietnamese leader did not mention any country but there is growing unease over China’s actions.
China claims most of the South China Sea. It has reclaimed reefs and built airstrips capable of hosting military equipment, sparking anger from competing claimants led by Vietnam and the Philippines.
“The South China Sea, located at the heart of Southeast Asia, not only brings about many important benefits to nations in the region but it is also a vital route to maritime and air transport of the world,” Quang said.
But “recent worrying developments” there “have had a negative impact on the security environment of the region, especially maritime security and safety, freedom of navigation and overflight.”
“And should we allow instability to take place, especially in the case of armed conflicts, there will be neither winners or losers but rather all will lose,” he warned.
The sea row has driven a wedge between members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which has failed to forge a unified front against Beijing’s actions.
Last month the Philippines won a case against China at a UN-backed tribunal in the Hague which rejected Beiijing’s claims to most of the sea.
China boycotted the hearing and has refused to recognize the ruling.
Meanwhile, Malacañang is practically allowing fishermen who are attempting to get near the contested Scarborough Shoal despite the obvious risks coming from the Chinese Coast Guard stationed in the said maritime zone.
“Maybe the best thing to do is just test the waters,” presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said yesterday as a response to the media’s query if, after President Duterte’s personal plea to Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jinhua on Monday, it is advisable for fisherfolks to do their previously usual fishing activities in the area which is claimed by China to be its own.
Abella also hinted that Ambassador Zhao has “responded positively” to Duterte’s appeal to Beijing’s forces to consider Filipino fishermen as “brothers and not adversaries”
“So, apparently there’s a, well, they are maybe kinks in the relationship. There is a positive opening. There is a window of opportunity,” the Palace mouthpiece said.
On Monday, President Duterte publicly pleaded to Beijing’s top envoy in Manila to allow Philippine forces to establish bases in the disputed parts of the South China Sea.
“Mr. Ambassador, I want to just talk to you for the moment. Maybe give us time to build our forces also. You have so much superiority… as many ships as you have,” Duterte addressed Zhao.
Ted Tuvera and AFP