Vietnam, Philippines slam China Military garrison plan in Philippine & Vietnam Territories

Vietnam and the Philippines have lashed out at China's moves to establish a military garrison in the West Philippines Sea (South China Sea), amid escalating tensions in the disputed waters.

Hanoi filed a formal protest with Beijing against the plan outlined by China this week to station troops in Sansha in the disputed Paracel Islands, saying it "violates international law".

The Paracel Islands are one of two archipelagos in the South China Sea that are claimed by both China and Vietnam.

Manila, which is involved in a dispute over another archipelago, the Spratly Islands, also weighed into the row, summoning the Chinese ambassador to lodge a complaint against the garrison announcement.

An intensifying spat over the South China Sea - the site of key shipping routes and thought to have vast oil and gas reserves - has seen a barrage of diplomatic moves between the countries with competing territorial claims.

Call for 'strong resolve'

Philippine president Benigno Aquino has called on the nation to show strong resolve against China's strident rhetoric.

In a nationwide address, President Aquino said his government had shown 'forbearance and goodwill' in the long-running dispute with China over Scarborough Shoal.

Walden Bello of the Akbayan Party, part of the Aquino administration's coalition, told Radio Australia's Asia Pacific that the Philippine people are united behind President Aquino against Beijing, but would prefer to settle the issue without conflict.

"I don't think that the response that people want is to respond with force to China's move," he said.

"The focus of the President has been to stress a diplomatic solution to the issue, to discuss it bilaterally with China, as well as to bring it to multilateral fora, like the Association of South-east Asian Nations.

"But at the same time, there is a chance that for defensive purposes, the country must be able to have a good defence capability, without being provocative," said Mr Bello

"I don't think that there is any intention on the part of the government to challenge China militarily," he said.

McCain enters fray

Meanwhile, US Senator John McCain says that China is "unnecessarily provocative" in saying it will establish a military garrison on disputed South China Sea islands.

He has called for a multilateral solution to the dispute.

"The decision by China's Central Military Commission to deploy troops to islands in the South China Sea, which are also claimed by Vietnam, is unnecessarily provocative," Mr. McCain said in a statement.

He said other action by China including its appointment of legislators to govern such disputes "only reinforces why many Asian countries are increasingly concerned about China's expansive territorial claims, which have no basis in international law, and the possibility that China will attempt to impose those claims through intimidation and coercion."

The actions by Beijing "are disappointing and not befitting a responsible great power," he said.

Words of caution

Mr. Bello says that although there are those in the Philippines government who favor seeking help from the United States, this is not a majority view.

"There are those of us within the government that are basically saying that we have to rely first of all, on ourselves, secondly on our neighbors, and be very, very careful about the way that the United States steps into the situation," he said.

Mr. Bello says it is important to look at the actual situation rather than getting agitated over China's rhetoric.

"We must distinguish between Chinese rhetoric and what it actually does," he said.

"Especially at this point, there is a leadership transition in China and everybody within every faction within the Chinese Communist Party is trying to impart, to some extent, this kind of militant discourse and rhetoric.

"Once the leadership transition is over, then you might find more flexibility on the part of the Chinese," said Mr. Bello.

"Secondly, the actual Chinese deployments that accompany its rhetoric, these are not major warship deployments," he said.

Australia News Network 

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