Manila (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Manila has accused Beijing of "trying to take control" of almost the entire South China Sea, with an "expansionist" agenda dominated by "massive reclamation projects" in the area.
This latest harsh criticism was expressed today by the Philippine Foreign Minister Albert del Rosario who claims the Chinese aim to undermine the work of the United Nations tribunal. Early next year, the judges of the International UN will be called upon to judge a dispute, reported by Manila, over the waters in the Asia-Pacific region.
The Philippine minister says that China "is accelerating" the "expansionist" agenda and "changing" the status quo, in an attempt to "take control of almost the entire China Sea" before the UN court will decide on the dispute .
In contrast, Beijing remains firm on its position by claiming sovereignty over the area, rich in oil, natural resources and raw materials. For China - which basis its’ claims on an old and controversial map - fall under their control but also zones around the coasts of the Philippines and other nations of Southeast Asia.
In recent years there has been a real escalation of tension, with China growing increasingly energetic and vigorous in making its presence felt in the seas of the surrounding nations. For the Philippine Minister del Rosario these "activities" have been stepped up, culminating in January in a Chinese vessel attacking a fishing boat in Manila, near the coast of the Philippines.
The Philippines and Vietnam are 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. The escalation in tensions also threatens to spark a new planetary war.