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Chinese news analyst calls Philippines a 'troublemaker'

The Philippines' newly acquired warship BRP Ramon Alcaraz making its way to Manila in June.

MANILA, Philippines - Writing a commentary in China's state press agency, Xinhua news analyst Lu Yu saw the Philippines under President Benigno Aquino III a bad hat in the territorial dispute in the South China Sea.

"The Philippines, under its current administration, has been a true troublemaker in the region," Lu said, complaining that the country has "assaulted and detained" Chinese fishermen and had an old warship "stranded on purpose" at Ren'ai Reef or the Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal.

Related story: Chinese ship runs aground in Tubbataha

The remark was published Monday following Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario's pronouncements on Sunday before the international community in Brunei accusing China of "militarization" at sea.

Del Rosario said at the security forum of Asean leaders that there is a "massive presence of Chinese military and paramilitary ships" off Scarborough (Panatag) Shoal and the Ayungin, calling China's activities "threats to efforts to maintain maritime peace and stability in the region."

Lu scoffed at the statement of Del Rosario, saying that it is the Philippines that has been trying to exhibit its might and poses itself as the distressed party before other countries.

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"For a country that has been zealous about taking in retired warships from other countries to build up its military power and that has from time to time conducted war games in the South China Sea, the top Philippine diplomat's claims carried a particularly strong sense of irony and absurdity," Lu said.

The news analyst claimed that the Philippines has launched a two-track approach on the decades-old sea row: seeking help from other countries such as US and Japan and tying the sea row in various Asean gatherings to "sabotage" China's diplomatic relations.

Related story: Japan to take Phl's side in South China Sea dispute

"So far the strategy has got nowhere. Outside meddling in regional affairs has only complicated the matter. Other countries, especially the United States, which has been talking about a new type of major-country relationship with China, are not showing Manila blanket support," Lu added.

A Chinese fishing vessel got stranded last April on the Philippines' marine sanctuary Tubbataha Reef. Its 12-member crew faced poaching and bribery charges and were detained in a provincial jail.

A retired Philippine warship, meanwhile, has been aground off Second Thomas Shoal since 1999. Chinese officials have renewed calls for the Philippine government to retrieve the vessel in late June.

The shoal is within the 200 nautical mile Philippine Continental Shelf and 105 miles from Palawan.

'Water of peace'

Lu also said that China only wants to turn the South China Sea into a "water of peace, friendship and cooperation" but Manila insists in "too much theatrics."

"For other ASEAN countries, they are also tired of seeing Manila poison the atmosphere of one regional meeting after another with provocative  accusations again China, with which the bloc has enjoyed rather fruitful relations," the analyst said.

Del Rosario, however, maintained that the country does not favor the use of force in settling the tension with the Asian giant.

"We condemn any threats of use of force. We condemn that. And we continue to pursue to resolution of our disputes in a peaceful way," del Rosario added, citing Chinese media reports warning of a "counterstrike" from China if Manila continues to provoke Beijing.

China on Sunday agreed to formally discuss a South China Sea "code of conduct" with Southeast Asian leaders to ease maritime tensions with the Philippines, Japan, Vietnam and Indonesia. The talks will be held in September in a move that Thailand's foreign minister hailed as "very significant."

Related story: Asean pushes sea code, talks with China

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