U.S. EYES USE OF NAVY BASE IN CAGAYAN UNDER THE EDCA

The United States may station troops at the Philippine Navy base here under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA). Local officials disclosed that a team of US servicemen, accompanied by US embassy staff, inspected the Camilo Osias Naval Base facility in Barangay San Vicente here recently. Located on the northern tip of Cagayan, Camilo Osias base has maritime and territorial jurisdiction over the country’s northern frontier – a portion of the South China Sea and the Pacific Ocean. A local official who saw the five US visitors said they were “introducing themselves as tourists... and proceeded to inspect the naval base.” The local official asked not to be named, saying he is not authorized to speak on issues of national concern. The base has a port and an airfield that can accommodate C-130 cargo planes, one of the requirements being considered by the US military leadership on the planned increased deployment of forces in the country. An international airport, currently under construction, is now 80 percent complete in nearby Lal-lo town. The airport is being built to further bolster tourism in the northern end of Cagayan province. It can accommodate huge military cargo planes and fighter jets when it becomes operational. Naval officials and personnel based here, however, declined to comment on the issue of the planned US troop deployment. Defense Secretary Voltaire, for his part, Gazmin said this has yet to be agreed upon by the Philippines and the US governments. READ MORE...

ALSO: China won’t stir trouble but..., vows Chinese President Xi Jinping

Chinese President Xi Jinping has vowed not to stir up trouble in the South China Sea but said China would react “in the necessary way” to provocations by other countries, the official Xinhua news agency reported. While Xi vows to avoid provocative acts, the United States warned China to halt destabilizing actions in Asia as Washington and its allies sought to boost defense cooperation in the face of what Japan called an “increasingly severe” security environment. Using unusually strong language, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told an Asia-Pacific security forum that the United States was committed to its geopolitical rebalance to the region and “will not look the other way when fundamental principles of the international order are being challenged.” DEEP TENSION --The comments come at a time of deep tension between China and Vietnam over Beijing’s decision in early May to move an oil rig into disputed waters between the Paracel islands and the Vietnamese coast. Days after China deployed the rig, the Philippines accused Beijing of reclaiming land on Mabini (Johnson South) Reef, a disputed reef in the Spratlys, to build what would be its first airstrip in the South China Sea. Japan’s defense ministry said Chinese SU-27 fighters came as close as 50 meters (170 feet) to a Japanese OP-3C surveillance plane near disputed islets last week and within 30 meters of a YS-11EB electronic intelligence aircraft. “We will never stir up trouble, but will react in the necessary way to the provocations of countries involved,” Xinhua quoted Xi late on Friday as saying in a meeting with Prime Minister Najib Razak of Malaysia, which is also embroiled in a long-running maritime dispute with China. READ MORE...

ALSO: Gov’t troops in Cagayan act as village watchmen, referees

PALAUI ISLAND, San Vicente, Cagayan, Philippines – Unlike their colleagues deployed to secure the country’s regime of islands in the West Philippine Sea, the troops on security and territorial duty deployed here are relatively luckier. While their counterparts in Palawan are constantly on their toes because of China’s aggressive behavior in the region, the soldiers here are tasked as barangay watchmen – mostly to break up fights among the local residents composed of 300 families. “Aside from our official duties in guarding our territory, often we perform referee duties,” Marine T/Sgt, Rogelio Jabalde said. Jabalde is deputy commander of the Punta Verde naval outpost based in this island where the South China Sea and the Pacific Ocean meet. Life here, according to Jabalde, is not as stressful compared to being deployed in the western side of the country where China is laying claim to the islands and reefs comprising the Spratlys. There are only a handful of troops deployed here – Jabalde, the Marine and two Navy men – all from the Philippine Navy’s Camelo Osias Naval Base in mainland Sta. Ana town. “Aside from acting as referees to break up fights of local residents here, we do patrol our waters around the island against fishermen engaged in illegal fishing,” Jabalde said. With the deployment of troops in this island, suspected poachers from Taiwan are no longer seen fighting it out with local fishermen. “It’s been a long time that we haven’t seen a Taiwanese fishing vessel in our waters,” said Charlie Acebedo, a resident of the island. Palaui Island is located between the mainland of Luzon and Camiguin Island, part of the Calayan Island Group. READ MORE...

ALSO: US Defense Sec Hagel spars with China

SINGAPORE—US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel accused China Saturday of “destabilising actions” in the South China Sea and warned that Washington would not “look the other way” if international order is threatened. But a top Chinese military official blasted the United States for making “threats” and condemned Hagel for making them to a public audience of fellow defense chiefs, diplomats and security experts attending the annual Shangri-La Dialogue. At the same time, Vietnam has prepared evidence for a legal suit challenging China’s claim to waters off the Vietnamese coast and is considering the best time to file it, according to Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung. Stressing US commitments to allies in Asia, Hagel called for a peaceful resolution of international disputes and issued a blunt message to China, which was represented by a high-level military delegation at the forum in Singapore. “In recent months, China has undertaken destabilising, unilateral actions asserting its claims in the South China Sea,” Hagel said in his speech. He accused China of restricting the Philippines’ access to Scarborough Shoal, putting pressure on Manila’s long-standing presence in Second Thomas Shoal, beginning land reclamation at various locations and moving an oil rig into disputed waters with Vietnam. Hagel said that while the United States does not take sides on rival claims, “we firmly oppose any nation’s use of intimidation, coercion, or the threat of force to assert these claims”. “The United States will not look the other way when fundamental principles of the international order are being challenged,” he said. READ MORE...

ALSO: China slams US defense chief for ‘threats’ – state TV

BEIJING — A Chinese military official on Saturday blasted the United States for making "threats" after the US defense chief accused Beijing of inflaming tensions in the disputed South China Sea, state television reported. US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel had denounced China's "destabilizing, unilateral actions asserting its claims in the South China Sea," at a security forum in Singapore which both officials are attending. The Chinese army's deputy chief of staff Wang Guanzhong described Hagel's comments at the Shangri-La Dialogue as baseless. "Secretary Hagel's speech is full of threats and intimidating language. Secretary Hagel's speech is full of encouragement, incitement for the Asia region's instability giving rise to a disturbance," state broadcaster China Central Television quoted Wang as telling reporters. "Secretary Hagel, in this kind of public space with many people, openly criticized China without reason. This accusation is completely without basis," Wang said. Tensions have recently flared in the South China Sea, claimed almost entirely by China, which has lately taken bold steps to enforce what it says are its historical rights. Wang added the value of the Shangri-La Dialogue was to encourage exchanges, sometimes blunt, between governments and think-tanks but China should not be accused without basis, CCTV said. READ MORE...


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US eyes use of Navy base in Cagayan


STA. ANA, CAGAYAN, JUNE 2, 2014 (PHILSTAR) By Jaime Laude - The United States may station troops at the Philippine Navy base here under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).

Local officials disclosed that a team of US servicemen, accompanied by US embassy staff, inspected the Camilo Osias Naval Base facility in Barangay San Vicente here recently.

Located on the northern tip of Cagayan, Camilo Osias base has maritime and territorial jurisdiction over the country’s northern frontier – a portion of the South China Sea and the Pacific Ocean.

A local official who saw the five US visitors said they were “introducing themselves as tourists... and proceeded to inspect the naval base.”

The local official asked not to be named, saying he is not authorized to speak on issues of national concern.

The base has a port and an airfield that can accommodate C-130 cargo planes, one of the requirements being considered by the US military leadership on the planned increased deployment of forces in the country.

An international airport, currently under construction, is now 80 percent complete in nearby Lal-lo town. The airport is being built to further bolster tourism in the northern end of Cagayan province. It can accommodate huge military cargo planes and fighter jets when it becomes operational.

Naval officials and personnel based here, however, declined to comment on the issue of the planned US troop deployment.

Defense Secretary Voltaire, for his part, Gazmin said this has yet to be agreed upon by the Philippines and the US governments.

Under EDCA, the US government, in line with its military pivot to the Asia-Pacific region, is allowed to increase the deployment of troops as well as its air and naval assets on rotation basis on the condition that they are barred from establishing their own bases, which should be co-located inside Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) military facilities.

While the legality of the newly signed agreement is being questioned by several groups, the national government is upbeat that the increased presence of US troops in the country’s western and northern frontiers will be a big boost to the country’s territorial and external defense while the military is rebuilding its own capability.

With its limited capability, the Philippine military is faced with a major challenge in dealing with increased intrusions of foreign military aircraft and ships and fishing vessels inside its 200-mile exclusive economic zone, not only in the West Philippine Sea, but also in territorial waters of Batanes and at Bingham Rise in the Pacific Ocean.

At present a lone Philippine Coast Guard vessel and a small Navy patrol ship are alternately patrolling the waters of Batanes and Bingham Rise.

The areas are being developed as an alternate fishing ground for displaced Filipino fishermen from Zambales after they were no longer allowed to fish in their traditional fishing spots at Panatag Shoal by its Chinese occupants.

The planned deployment of US troops will be a first, unlike those at Subic, Zambales; Clark Air Field in Pampanga and Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija.

FROM THE MANILA BULLETIN

China won’t stir trouble by Reuters May 31, 2014 MANILA BULLETIN

Stop destabilizing actions in Asia, US warns Beijing
 


SIGN OF UNITY (AP) – United States Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel (left), South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin (right), and Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera (center) clasp their hands as an indication of unity during the 13th Asia Security Summit in Singapore yesterday.

Shanghai – Chinese President Xi Jinping has vowed not to stir up trouble in the South China Sea but said China would react “in the necessary way” to provocations by other countries, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

While Xi vows to avoid provocative acts, the United States warned China to halt destabilizing actions in Asia as Washington and its allies sought to boost defense cooperation in the face of what Japan called an “increasingly severe” security environment.

Using unusually strong language, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told an Asia-Pacific security forum that the United States was committed to its geopolitical rebalance to the region and “will not look the other way when fundamental principles of the international order are being challenged.”

DEEP TENSION

The comments come at a time of deep tension between China and Vietnam over Beijing’s decision in early May to move an oil rig into disputed waters between the Paracel islands and the Vietnamese coast.

Days after China deployed the rig, the Philippines accused Beijing of reclaiming land on Mabini (Johnson South) Reef, a disputed reef in the Spratlys, to build what would be its first airstrip in the South China Sea.

Japan’s defense ministry said Chinese SU-27 fighters came as close as 50 meters (170 feet) to a Japanese OP-3C surveillance plane near disputed islets last week and within 30 meters of a YS-11EB electronic intelligence aircraft.

“We will never stir up trouble, but will react in the necessary way to the provocations of countries involved,” Xinhua quoted Xi late on Friday as saying in a meeting with Prime Minister Najib Razak of Malaysia, which is also embroiled in a long-running maritime dispute with China.

DESTABILIZING ACTIONS

But Hagel, in the speech to the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, said: “In recent months, China has undertaken destabilizing, unilateral actions asserting its claims in the South China Sea.”

Hagel said the United States took no position on the merits of rival territorial claims in the region, but added: “We firmly oppose any nation’s use of intimidation, coercion, or the threat of force to assert these claims.”

Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said Tokyo perceived an “increasingly severe regional security environment.”

“It is unfortunate that there are security concerns in the East and South China Seas,” he said. “Japan as well as all concerned parties must uphold the rule of law and never attempt to unilaterally change the status quo by force.”

JAPAN OFFERS SUPPORT

On Friday, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told the Singapore forum that Tokyo would offer its “utmost support” to Southeast Asian countries in their efforts to protect their seas and airspace, as he pitched his plan for Japan to take on a bigger international security role.

In a pointed dig at China, he said Japan would provide coast guard patrol boats to the Philippines and Vietnam.

“Japan intends to play an even greater and more proactive role than it has until now in making peace in Asia and the world something more certain,” he said.

China has said Abe’s government was using the islands dispute as an excuse to revive its military.

“He has made it into a bigger issue – that is China as a country is posing a threat to Japan as a country,” Fu Ying, Beijing’s chief delegate to the forum, said on Friday.

“He has made such a myth. And then with that as an excuse, (he is) trying to amend the security policy of Japan, that is what is worrying for the region and for China.”

Despite memories of Japan’s harsh wartime occupation of much of Southeast Asia, several countries in the region may view Abe’s message favorably because of China’s increasing assertiveness.

US SUPPORT

The United States, having to implement cuts to its vast military budget at a time of austerity, is keen to see allies play a greater role in security and Hagel gave an enthusiastic US endorsement to Abe’s speech.

“We… support Japan’s new effort… to reorient its Collective Self Defense posture toward actively helping build a peaceful and resilient regional order,” Hagel said.

Hagel repeatedly stressed Obama’s commitment to the Asia-Pacific rebalance and said the strong US military presence in the region would endure.

“To ensure that the rebalance is fully implemented, both President Obama and I remain committed to ensuring that any reductions in US defense spending do not come at the expense of America’s commitments in the Asia-Pacific,” he said.

China claims almost the entire oil- and gas-rich South China Seas, and dismisses competing claims from Taiwan, Brunei, Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia. Japan has its own territorial row with China over islands in the East China Sea.

China has become increasingly willing and able to assert its claims over disputed waters, causing concern among the other parties to the disputes, analysts say.

The decision to deploy the oil rig enraged Vietnam and sparked anti-China rioting. Scores of Vietnamese and Chinese ships continue to square off around the rig and a Vietnamese boat sank this week after a collision that both sides blamed on the other.

STABLE IN GENERAL

Xi told Najib the situation in the South China Sea was “stable in general, but signs deserving our attention have also emerged.”

China and Malaysia should “work together to strengthen dialogue and communication, advance maritime cooperation and joint development to maintain peace and stability on the South China Sea,” Xinhua quoted him as saying.

Southeast Asian nations with maritime claims have been slow to band together against China, but last week Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and Philippine President Aquino made a rare joint denunciation of China.

To try to keep pressure on Beijing, diplomats said Vietnam might host a meeting with Philippine and Malaysian officials at the end of the month to discuss how to respond to China.

A senior Malaysian diplomatic source told Reuters two weeks ago that China’s assertiveness had given momentum to the three-way talks and “brought us together,” but he played down the discussions as little more than “chit chat” at this stage.

FROM PHILSTAR

Gov’t troops in Cagayan act as village watchmen, referees By Jaime Laude (The Philippine Star) | Updated June 1, 2014 - 12:00am 0 0 googleplus0 0

PALAUI ISLAND, San Vicente, Cagayan, Philippines – Unlike their colleagues deployed to secure the country’s regime of islands in the West Philippine Sea, the troops on security and territorial duty deployed here are relatively luckier.

While their counterparts in Palawan are constantly on their toes because of China’s aggressive behavior in the region, the soldiers here are tasked as barangay watchmen – mostly to break up fights among the local residents composed of 300 families.

“Aside from our official duties in guarding our territory, often we perform referee duties,” Marine T/Sgt, Rogelio Jabalde said.

Jabalde is deputy commander of the Punta Verde naval outpost based in this island where the South China Sea and the Pacific Ocean meet.

Life here, according to Jabalde, is not as stressful compared to being deployed in the western side of the country where China is laying claim to the islands and reefs comprising the Spratlys.

There are only a handful of troops deployed here – Jabalde, the Marine and two Navy men – all from the Philippine Navy’s Camelo Osias Naval Base in mainland Sta. Ana town.

“Aside from acting as referees to break up fights of local residents here, we do patrol our waters around the island against fishermen engaged in illegal fishing,” Jabalde said.

With the deployment of troops in this island, suspected poachers from Taiwan are no longer seen fighting it out with local fishermen.

“It’s been a long time that we haven’t seen a Taiwanese fishing vessel in our waters,” said Charlie Acebedo, a resident of the island.

Palaui Island is located between the mainland of Luzon and Camiguin Island, part of the Calayan Island Group.

The Calayan Island group is near Balintang Channel where only last year, a suspected Taiwanese poacher was killed by patrolling Philippine Coast Guard personnel.

While the waters off Cagayan are already free of Taiwanese poachers, the intrusions are continuing in the still unguarded waters of Batanes.

The Balintang incident brought diplomatic relations between Manila and Taipei to a new low. Relations improved with the indictment of the PCG personnel involved.

Recently, a Taiwanese fishing boat ran aground in one of the reefs in Batanes, but the absence of a bigger ship to tow the vessel afforded time for other Taiwanese vessels to salvage and tow it back to Taiwan.

“Before, they used to be around doing poaching and illegal fishing in our waters but now they’re gone,” Acebedo said.

Apart from being a fisherman, Acebedo also works as tourism officer in Palaui.

The island is fast becoming a tourism area after serving as the venue of the “Survivor” reality series last year.

Other groups of fishermen added they are competing with Taiwanese fishermen in deep-sea fishing in the seas off Batanes.

“The Taiwanese are no longer here but in Batanes, they are numerous. It’s because there are no troops in the islands there,” one of the fishermen said.

The military said a plan is being worked out to deploy troops in the islets in Batanes.

Going north

Known as the northern frontier, the country’s territorial waters under the jurisdiction of Batanes and Cagayan remains widely unsecured against poaching and illegal fishing.

“A proposal on this particular deployment, patterned after our territorial and domain awareness operations within our regime of islands in the Spratlys, is currently under study,” an official said.

The official added the plans are to deploy troops in the seven uninhabited islets close to the territorial waters off Taiwan.

Once the proposal is approved, troops will be initially deployed in Y’ami Island and the North Island, all located in the northernmost portion of the country’s territorial waters facing Taiwan.

A survey was conducted by the provincial government of Batanes and the military in all the seven islets and discovered that they are all habitable, with the presence of fresh water.

“For now, there’s nobody staying in all these islets but a herd of goats that are being stolen and regularly being butchered by intruding Taiwanese, Vietnamese and Chinese fishermen,” another official said.

The location of these islets is highly strategic in terms of military and economic value, as the surrounding waters serve as passageways of foreign fishermen sailing from the South China Sea to fish at Benham Rise in the Pacific.

Milagros Morales, assistant regional director of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources in Cagayan Valley, lamented the absence of troops to serve as a deterrent force in the surrounding islets comprising Batanes province.

She said the absence of any deterrent force has emboldened not only the Taiwanese fishermen but also those from China and Vietnam to conduct poaching and illegal fishing in the waters of the province.

“After last year’s shooting incident in Balintang Channel, they never left. We felt helpless because we don’t have anything to stop them,” Morales said.

She also lamented the absence of the military territorial force in the area has emboldened foreign poachers to venture closer to the island town of Itbayat.

She said a lone government vessel coming from her homeport in Sta. Ana, Cagayan had to be dispatched to Batanes to patrol the Itbayat waters.

At Benham Rise, a government research vessel is also in the area to guide fishermen on what type of fishing is suitable to further increase their daily catch.

Angel Encarnacion, Batanes provincial officer, said the deployment of a Bureau of Fisheries vessel to the province is in support of the ongoing maritime and territorial domain awareness patrol being conducted by a lone Navy ship.

Last year, Encarnacion said local fishery enforcers accosted a Taiwanese fishing vessel docked near Itbayat, but failed to seize the foreign ship and apprehend its crewmembers in the absence of a bigger ship to tow the intruding vessel to the capital town of Basco.

“That is one of the primary reasons why a plan is being studied to deploy troops for maritime and territorial duties in the Batanes,” said the official.

If only soldiers were deployed in the area, the Balintang Channel shooting incident could have been avoided, he said.

FROM THE MANILA STANDARD

Hagel spars with China By Manila Standard Today | Jun. 01, 2014 at 12:01am

US man provokes Sino retort over WPH Sea row

SINGAPORE—US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel accused China Saturday of “destabilising actions” in the South China Sea and warned that Washington would not “look the other way” if international order is threatened.


Hagel

But a top Chinese military official blasted the United States for making “threats” and condemned Hagel for making them to a public audience of fellow defense chiefs, diplomats and security experts attending the annual Shangri-La Dialogue.

At the same time, Vietnam has prepared evidence for a legal suit challenging China’s claim to waters off the Vietnamese coast and is considering the best time to file it, according to Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung.

Stressing US commitments to allies in Asia, Hagel called for a peaceful resolution of international disputes and issued a blunt message to China, which was represented by a high-level military delegation at the forum in Singapore.

“In recent months, China has undertaken destabilising, unilateral actions asserting its claims in the South China Sea,” Hagel said in his speech.

He accused China of restricting the Philippines’ access to Scarborough Shoal, putting pressure on Manila’s long-standing presence in Second Thomas Shoal, beginning land reclamation at various locations and moving an oil rig into disputed waters with Vietnam.

Hagel said that while the United States does not take sides on rival claims, “we firmly oppose any nation’s use of intimidation, coercion, or the threat of force to assert these claims”.

“The United States will not look the other way when fundamental principles of the international order are being challenged,” he said.

Tensions have recently flared up in the South China Sea, claimed almost entirely by China, which has lately taken bold steps to enforce what it says are its historical rights. Four Southeast Asian states – Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam – claim parts of the sea, with Manila and Hanoi being the most vocal in opposing China’s claims. Taiwan is the sixth claimant.

In the latest tensions, Vietnam accused Chinese warships Thursday of pointing weapons at their vessels during an escalating standoff near an oil rig in contested waters. There have also been ramming incidents involving boats from both sides lately.

The Philippines and China are locked in a bitter dispute over the control of islets and reefs in the sea, which straddles vital shipping lanes and is believed to sit atop vast gas deposits.

In 2012, the Philippines lost control of rich fishing grounds in Scarborough, about 220 kilometres (135 miles) off its main island, to China after a standoff.

Manila in May publicly accused Beijing of large-scale reclamation activity at Johnson South Reef. Filipino officials fear this could lead to China building its first airstrip in the disputed region.

The Philippines asked a United Nations tribunal in March to declare what Manila said was China’s claim to 70 percent of the sea as illegal. Beijing has refused to participate in the tribunal proceedings and repeatedly rejected protests by China and Vietnam.

China is also in dispute with Japan over islands in the East Sea, which Tokyo calls Senkaku and Beijing refers to as Diaoyu.

Last year, China declared an air defense identification zone in the East Sea, including over the outcrops, which are under Japan’s administration.

In his speech, Hagel reiterated that the United States opposes “any effort by any nation to restrict overflight or freedom of navigation, whether from military or civilian vessels, from countries big or small”.

He pledged support for Japan’s plans to play a greater role in maintaining security in Asia.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, opened the forum Friday by saying Tokyo would play a more “proactive” role in Asian security as the leader sets about reshaping the rules for the country’s little-used military.

Hagel also pledged support to countries that are moving towards democracy, notably Myanmar, but said Washington would review ties with those curbing democratic freedoms.

But the deputy chief of the General Staff of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Wang Guanzhong described Hagel’s comments as baseless, and condemned him for making them to a public audience attending the annual Shangri-La Dialogue.

“This speech is full of hegemony, full of incitement, threats, intimidation,” Wang was quoted as saying by a reporter from state broadcaster China Central Television.

“This speech is completely non-constructive and moreover is public, several times criticising China by name, and these kinds of accusations are completely without basis, without reason,” Wang said.

Tensions have recently flared in the South China Sea, claimed almost entirely by China, which has lately taken bold steps to enforce what it says are its historical rights.

He added the value of the Shangri-La Dialogue was to encourage exchanges, sometimes blunt, between governments and think-tanks but China should not be accused without basis.

China has sought to counter Washington’s foreign policy “pivot” to Asia, but it has also angered Vietnam, Japan and the Philippines – the latter two US allies – with what those countries say are aggressive moves in separate maritime rows.

Relations between China and Vietnam have worsened after Beijing sent a deep-water oil drilling rig into contested waters in the South China Sea.

Vietnam has prepared evidence for a legal suit challenging China’s claim to waters off the Vietnamese coast and is considering the best time to file it, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung said on Saturday.

“We are prepared and ready for legal action,” Dung said, sitting in the prime minister’s compound in Hanoi in front of a bronze bust of Ho Chi Minh, the founder of communist Vietnam. “We are considering the most appropriate timing to take this measure.”

Dung, 64, spoke four days after a Vietnamese fishing boat sank in a collision with a Chinese ship in an area near the disputed Paracel Islands where China has placed an oil rig.

A legal filing would follow a case against China submitted by the Philippines to a United Nations’ court over contested shoals off its coast.

Dung, who faces pressure from citizens calling for a strong response to China’s oil rig maneuver, risks damaging economic ties with his bigger communist neighbor if he chooses to go down the legal route.

A suit by Vietnam, though, would add to pressure on China to submit to arbitration in the South China Sea where it is asserting control in a push to gain greater access to the area’s oil, gas and fish.

If open conflict were to erupt in the South China Sea, “there will be no victor,” Dung warned, saying that two-thirds of global maritime trade passes through shipping lanes in the area. “Everyone will lose,” he said. “The whole world economy will be hurt and damaged immeasurably.”

FROM GMA NEWS NETWORK

China slams US defense chief for ‘threats’ – state TV June 1, 2014 8:27am 11 60 0 102

BEIJING — A Chinese military official on Saturday blasted the United States for making "threats" after the US defense chief accused Beijing of inflaming tensions in the disputed South China Sea, state television reported.

US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel had denounced China's "destabilizing, unilateral actions asserting its claims in the South China Sea," at a security forum in Singapore which both officials are attending.

The Chinese army's deputy chief of staff Wang Guanzhong described Hagel's comments at the Shangri-La Dialogue as baseless.

"Secretary Hagel's speech is full of threats and intimidating language. Secretary Hagel's speech is full of encouragement, incitement for the Asia region's instability giving rise to a disturbance," state broadcaster China Central Television quoted Wang as telling reporters.

"Secretary Hagel, in this kind of public space with many people, openly criticized China without reason. This accusation is completely without basis," Wang said.

Tensions have recently flared in the South China Sea, claimed almost entirely by China, which has lately taken bold steps to enforce what it says are its historical rights.

Wang added the value of the Shangri-La Dialogue was to encourage exchanges, sometimes blunt, between governments and think-tanks but China should not be accused without basis, CCTV said.

China's official Xinhua news agency on Saturday accused the United States of raising tensions in Asia, following Hagel's speech.

"The United States has been trying to practice its approach of ensuring the safety of its allies by maintaining its military dominance," it said.

"It even adopted the strategy of stoking fires to do this with the influence felt and visibly seen behind the tensions on the South China Sea."

China has sought to counter Washington's foreign policy "pivot" to Asia, but it has also angered Vietnam, Japan and the Philippines -- the latter two US allies -- with what those countries say are aggressive moves in separate maritime rows.

Relations between China and Vietnam have worsened after Beijing sent a deep-water oil drilling rig into contested waters in the South China Sea.

The Philippines accuses China of reclaiming land on a disputed reef within its exclusive economic zone under a United Nations convention, while Beijing and Tokyo have a long-running feud over disputed islands in the East China Sea.

On Friday, Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, also speaking at the Shangri-La Dialogue, vowed that his country would play a larger role in promoting peace in Asia and called for the rule of law to be upheld in the region.

Another commentary published by Xinhua on Saturday dismissed the speech as seeking to mask Japan's military ambitions.

"Such rhetoric is fundamentally flawed when it came from the nationalist leader who has been trying to conjure up the militarist past of Japan in a drive to re-arm his country," it said. — Agence France-Presse


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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