Manila (AsiaNews / Agencies) – The axis against Beijing’s claims on the seas is strengthening with the Manila government seeking agreements with various Asia-Pacific countries to contain Chinese imperialism in the region.
President Benigno Aquino has requested Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for the support of naval vessels to patrol the disputed waters of the South China Sea. Recently, governments signed an agreement for the supply of high-tech military equipment.
The agreement marks a turning point for the Land of the Rising Sun, which for the first time since the end of World War II will provide a direct military support to another country; confirming the aggressive policy guided by the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has effectively eliminated the "pacifism" from the nation’s Constitution.
Yesterday, the Philippine President Aquino made the request to the Japanese Prime Minister Abe on the sidelines of the two-day APEC summit scheduled on 18 and 19 November in Manila.
If agreed to, it would confirm Tokyo’s intention not to clash openly with China in disputed seas, but to supply the means and support to those countries in the region in dispute with Beijing.
Japan has insisted on guarantees that any materials supplied "will not end up in the hands of third countries."
Meanwhile, the Philippine also government signed an agreement with Taiwan, under which both countries undertake to adopt the line of non-violence in resolving disputes on their respective areas of competence for fisheries. Experts say this is an "important" step in easing tension between the two nations and is the result of two years of negotiations, launched following the deadly shooting attack on a Taiwanese fishing vessel off the coast of the Philippines.
Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry says that the signature is a "practical application" of the spirit of peace and harmony promoted by President Ma Ying-jeou in the resolution of territorial disputes. Both countries commit themselves not to use force in law enforcement and avoid future clashes, as well as launching an emergency notification system.
The Philippines – which is seeking a non-binding international ruling at the UN court – together with Vietnam, is increasingly worried about Beijing's imperialism in the South China and East China seas. The Chinese government claims most of the sea (almost 85 per cent), including sovereignty over the disputed Spratly and Paracel islands, in opposition to Vietnam, Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia. In recent months, China has used various political, economic and diplomatic means to hamper non-Chinese vessels from fishing or moving through the disputed waters.
For the United States, which backs the claims of Southeast Asia nations, Beijing's so-called 'cow tongue' line – which covers 80% of the 3.5 km2 - is both "illegal" and "irrational". Anyone with a hegemonic sway over the region would have a strategic advantage, in terms of seabed (oil and gas) development, but also in trade since two thirds of the world's maritime trade transit through it. Upon landing in the Philippines to participate in the APEC meeting, US President Barack Obama focused attention on the South China Sea, stressing that Beijing must stop claiming space in the disputed waters.