View from EU: Dangerous evolution in sea row

Brussels (Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN) - The territorial disputes between China and its Southeast Asian neighbors have reached the point of a "dangerous evolution," according to a member of the European Parliament.

Robert Goebbels of Luxembourg, a member of the European Parliament since 1999 and a former journalist, urged the claimant states to resolve the disputes peacefully in international courts.

But Goebbels doubted that China's ultimate goal is to provoke a military confrontation in the region. He said Beijing is apparently showing the world that it has "the necessary muscle" by investing heavily in submarines and an aircraft carrier, its first, which is "a typical offensive weapon."

Related story: Chinese sea patrol in disputed territory alarms Philippines

"That, to my ears, is a dangerous evolution," Goebbels said in an interview with a group of journalists from Southeast Asia, including this writer, who were at the European Parliament in Brussels earlier this month on a media tour hosted by the European Union.

"Their goal is to show that 'we have our own Fifth Fleet (a reference to the US naval force in the Pacific), we can operate wherever we like,'" Goebbels said.

Dangerous situation

"But it's a dangerous situation because, even though I'm pretty sure there will be no more full-fledged war between superpowers or regional powers, you will never know. An escalation is quickly there and you end up having something nobody wanted," he said.

Goebbels is vice chair of the parliament's delegation for relations with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), which includes the Philippines.

He is also acknowledged as the chief proponent of the Schengen visa system that fostered the integration of EU member countries.

Also read: Envoys upbeat on Philippines-US ties

Goebbels spoke about the territorial disputes when asked how he viewed China's increasingly aggressive tactics in asserting its claims, including a new passport bearing a map that shows almost the entire West Philippine Sea as Chinese territory, and new maritime rules that allow border police from Hainan province to board, search and expel foreign ships that enter what it considers its territory.

The new rules take effect on Jan. 1 but China has already sent out the first patrol vessel, the Haixun 21, which will go beyond the China coast and travel to as far as the Spratlys in the West Philippine Sea.

Philippines objects

The Philippines, which claims seven islands in the Spratlys, on Friday said that it "strongly objects" to the deployment of the patrol vessel.

Such patrols will not boost China's claim to the disputed territory, according to Raul Hernandez, spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

In other news: Trade, investment hopes spring in 2012

"The Philippines strongly objects to the Chinese patrol of Philippine maritime domain in the West Philippine Sea," Hernandez said.

He said the Chinese patrol violates international laws and will not help China advance its claims in the sea.

"Such a patrol will not validate the nine-dash lines and is contrary to China's obligation under international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea," he said.

Hernandez called on China to respect the Philippines' territorial sovereignty in its exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea.

Referring to same sea

Goebbels said he personally saw how the territorial disputes came to a head on the diplomatic front when he attended an Asean meeting in Lombok, Indonesia, as an observer two months ago.

He noted that past Asean meetings were "normally very diplomatic and very soft." But in the Lombok exchanges "it was different and there was real debate mainly on the South China Sea."

Also read: VIEW: Women's rights: Turning point in India, triumph in Manila

Goebbels recalled how a high-ranking Chinese official spoke about "problems in the South China Sea" while the Philippine delegate spoke about "problems in the West Philippine Sea" but they were both referring to the same sea.

"It shows how geography is used to set claims. It is difficult to assess from the outside whose claims are better," Goebbels said.

"The same goes for those concerning the islands. Whatever their names are, 99.9 percent of the world population would have problems locating those islands on the map, but here there is a fight going on" between China and the Southeast Asian claimants and between China and Japan, he said.

Escalating trouble

"Everyone has historical claims and everybody has occupied these islands once or twice and even more. We have international courts [that] can deal with that. You can go to

The Hague or you can go to the maritime court in Hamburg that deals with these and try to have a judgment," Goebbels said.

"But the problem is, for the moment, the situation seems to be escalating," he said.

With reports from Jerome Aning and AFP

Loading...

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • China ignores global outcry vs reclamation
    China ignores global outcry vs reclamation

    On Wednesday, G-7 foreign ministers issued a Declaration on Maritime Security expressing alarm over “unilateral actions, such as large scale land reclamation, which change the status quo and increase tensions” in the region. In their communiqué, which did not specifically mention China, the ministers expressed belief that reclamation activities were meant to “change the status quo” in the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea, through which 40 percent of global trade passes. …

  • Project NOAH exec receives recognition
    Project NOAH exec receives recognition

    Project NOAH executive director and University of the Philippines professor Mahar Lagmay recently received recognition from the European Geosciences Union (EGU) for his work in disaster risk reduction and mitigation in the Philippines. …

  • Nightclub ban for US troops
    Nightclub ban for US troops

    The US Pacific Command has banned its troops in the Philippines from bars and nightclubs, a spokesman said yesterday, with the trial under way of a US Marine accused of murdering a transgender Filipino he met in a bar. Thousands of American and Filipino soldiers will kick off tomorrow the 10-day annual military exercises, according to Capt. Alex Lim, a spokesman for the US forces, but there will be strict controls on their free time. Lim would not say why the restrictions were imposed but …

  • US-Phl war games to start under China’s shadow
    US-Phl war games to start under China’s shadow

    Thousands of American and Filipino soldiers will kick off tomorrow expanded wargames, showcasing a deepening  defense alliance as alarm bells ring over China. The 10-day exercises in the Philippines are an annual affair between the longtime allies, but this time they will involve double the number of soldiers as last year in a sign of their expanding military partnership. The Philippines is seeking more US military and diplomatic support to fend off China’s increasing forcefulness in its bid …

  • Palace defends legal tack in sea row
    Palace defends legal tack in sea row

    There is nothing weak about taking the legal and diplomatic approach to push for the country’s claims in the disputed West Philippine Sea, Malacañang maintained yesterday. On Friday, Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares led a rally in front of the Chinese consulate in Makati City to protest China’s massive reclamation activities in the Spratly island group to fortify its presence in the disputed waters. Colmenares also criticized the Philippine government for supposedly not doing enough to defend …

  • Veloso sons urge authorities to save mother from death
    Veloso sons urge authorities to save mother from death

    The sons of Mary Jane Veloso, who is facing execution in Indonesia for drug smuggling, yesterday appealed to government officials to do everything to spare their mother from death. “We love you,” Mark Daniel, 12, said when asked for a message for his mother following a press conference at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City. Mark Daniel, an incoming Grade 8 student, reiterated his appeal to those in power to help save his mother from death. His younger brother, …

  • US-Philippines wargames to start under China's shadow
    US-Philippines wargames to start under China's shadow

    Thousands of American and Filipino soldiers on Monday will kick off expanded wargames, showcasing a deepening defence alliance as alarm bells ring over China. The 10-day exercises in the Philippines are an annual affair between the longtime allies, but this time they will involve double the number of soldiers as last year in a sign of their expanding military partnership. The Philippines is seeking more US military and diplomatic support to fend off China's increasing forcefulness in its bid …

  • Bar ban for US troops in Philippines amid murder trial
    Bar ban for US troops in Philippines amid murder trial

    The US Pacific Command has banned its troops in the Philippines from bars and nightclubs, a spokesman said Saturday, with the trial under way of a US Marine accused of murdering a transgender Filipina he met in a bar. Thousands of American and Filipino soldiers will on Monday kick off 10-day annual military excercises, according to Captain Alex Lim, a spokesman for the US forces, but there will be strict controls on their free time. Lim would not say why the restrictions were imposed but …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options