23 March 2017
Beijing on Wednesday denied reports that it would start work this year on an environmental monitoring station on a disputed shoal in the South China Sea.
The denial countered a report in state-run Hainan Daily on March 13 quoting the mayor of Sansha, which administers a vast part of the sea. The report prompted a protest from Manila, a competing claimant to the area.
Foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said reports about the construction of such a station in the shoal were “not true”.
“With regards to the Scarborough Shoal, China’s position is consistent and clear. We place great importance on Sino-Philippine relations,” Hua said.
Hainan Daily quoted Sansha mayor Xiao Jie as saying China would begin preparatory work this year on monitoring stations on a number of islands, including the Scarborough Shoal.
Philippine Justice Minister Vitaliano Aguirre said on Monday that Manila would file a complaint against Beijing’s plan to install a station on the shoal. Aguirre also said the Philippines would renew its strong ties with Washington in the face of China’s aggressive action in the shoal.
Collin Koh, a research fellow at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University, said Manila would be suspicious of such a monitoring station because it could be dual-purpose.
“Data on water salinity and atmospheric conditions at sea, for example, is not only useful for furthering public knowledge. It could also be used to plan and execute military operations,” Koh said, adding that a permanent monitoring station would be able to transmit data in real time.
IDSS / Online
Last updated on 23/03/2017