Philippines told to keep US out of Spratlys

Manila (Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN) - Former Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Wang Yingfan warned that dragging the United States in the disputed West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) would be unacceptable to China and Beijing "certainly would react" if that happened.

"We could forge good neighbourly relations and work out something that's beneficial and acceptable to both sides¿You are happy and we are happy. Maybe, you're half-happy and we're half-happy, but it's acceptable to both sides," Wang said in a media forum on Wednesday organised by the Chinese Embassy.

Wang, who served in Manila from 1988 to 1990, said there was nothing wrong with the Philippines acquiring used US warships for defence purposes and that "any nation must do something (to improve) their own national defence."

"It's understandable. No problem," he said. "I know your Navy is very much backward in equipment. If you buy warships from the United States, I would understand."

But Wang, who said he still advised his government on regional issues despite his retirement, asserted that allowing the United States to meddle in the six-nation Spratly Island dispute was another story.

More complicated

"If it really happens that the United States and your country would talk about the South China Sea and how you should work together, I think that would be something which cannot be accepted by the Chinese," he said.

"If (the Americans) involve themselves in the territorial dispute, there will be problems with China. If that happened, the Chinese government certainly would react," he added.

That is why it would be "wise for the nations concerned in this region, including the Philippines, not to introduce Americans into the disputed waters," Wang said.

Six claimants

"That would make the issue more complicated and more difficult to settle among ourselves," he said.

The Spratlys are a chain of up to 190 isles, reefs, coral outcrops and banks believed to be sitting atop large deposits of oil and natural gas.

A Chinese report quoted by US authorities estimates there are 225 billion barrels of oil in the area.

The isles and their waters are claimed wholly or in part by China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei.

President Benigno Aquino III has said the gas deposits in the disputed territory are so enormous that they would dwarf the Malampaya oil and gas fields.

Wang Yingfan and another retired Chinese diplomat, Wang Chungui, who was ambassador to Manila from 2000 to 2004, are in the Philippines on a week-long goodwill visit as part of the two countries' friendly exchanges, the embassy said.

'Deng Xiaoping solution'

Wang Yingfan pushed for the so-called "Deng Xiaoping solution" to the dispute-setting aside the territorial quarrel in favour of joint exploration and development.

The late Deng, who led China from 1978 to 1992, steered the world's most populous state toward a market economy in the 1980s.

Wang Yingfan stressed "it is the time for cooperation, not confrontation, not fighting."

"I talked with some important people in your government that we should work hard to find ways that are acceptable to both sides, that we must work hard to prepare the ground so that we could share the resources together," he added.

"The response was very encouraging. They said they would consider this kind of thinking. So with patience, with goodwill and with hard work, we could find a way out that's agreeable and acceptable to both sides."

'Solution will come'

Instead of wasting time talking about the Spratlys dispute, Wang said it would be better if Filipinos "spend your energy on economic development."

He said "it would take some time before we could find a solution (to the dispute)" but he was "optimistic that that will come."

Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario has said a "rules-based" approach based on international law is the key to settling the dispute and that the Philippines expects nothing less from the other Spratlys claimants.

Following a recent meeting between the Philippines and China in Beijing, the Department of Foreign Affairs said the two sides had agreed to promote bilateral relations, such as on energy, science and technology, disaster mitigation, law enforcement and maritime cooperation.

The Chinese foreign ministry has said both countries have agreed not to let their quarrel over the Spratlys "affect the broader picture of friendship and cooperation" between them. With a report from Inquirer Research

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