China warned the Philippines on Monday to abandon a disputed shoal in the South China Sea after Manila said it planned to challenge a Chinese naval blockade of the area by sending supplies to its troops stationed there.
Last week, a senior Philippines military official said his country would send civilian supply ships to its soldiers deployed on a vessel that ran aground on the disputed Second Thomas Shoal in 1999. The shoal is known in China as the Ren’ai reef and in the Philippines as Ayungin.
“The Chinese government’s attitude on maintaining the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity is unwavering. We will never tolerate the Philippines illegal occupation of Ren’ai reef,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a daily news briefing.
“China is on high alert for the Philippines possibly taking more provocative acts in the South China Sea. The Philippines must accept responsibility for the consequences of what will happen,” he added.
Second Thomas Shoal, a strategic gateway to an area believed to be rich in oil and natural gas, is one of several possible maritime flashpoints that could prompt the United States to intervene in defense of Asian allies troubled by increasingly assertive Chinese maritime claims.
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This is just one of China’s numerous disputes over islands that clearly closer to other countries than to China. But, as we have seen from the recent Russian annexation of Ukraine, we are back to 19th century rules is solving disputes, as WSJ noted in an editorial entitled “Welcome to the 19th Century: Putin and the new Bonapartes see a weak and retreating West”
“You just don’t in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped up pretext,” declared John Kerry on March 2 as Russia began its conquest of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula.
Though he didn’t intend it, the U.S. Secretary of State was summing up the difference between the current leaders of the West who inhabit a fantasy world of international rules and the hard men of the Kremlin who understand the language of power. The 19th-century men are winning.
One can predict who will win in this standoff between China and the Philippines.