The US must support its allies in the Asia Pacific against "Chinese aggression" in the South China Sea, the chairperson of the US House committee on foreign affairs said shortly before a hearing Wednesday that focused on examining current US policy in the region amid China's rising clout.
The comments, which analysts suggest reflect an increasingly prevailing sentiment by US authorities to continue engaging in the South China Sea disputes, came days after the Philippines officially named waters including islets and shoals claimed by Beijing as the "West Philippine Sea."
"China's aggressive tactics of bullying and coercion in the South China Sea cannot be tolerated," Republican congresswoman Ilena Ros-Lehtinen, chairwoman of the committee, said Wednesday.
"We must continue to strongly support our allies and our interests in the region and make it clear to the rulers in Beijing that the South China Sea and the Western Pacific are not theirs for the taking," she said in an online statement.
Though the hearings of the US House of Representatives do not represent the stand of the US government and the House of Representatives is less powerful than the Senate, it shows that the US, despite its stated neutral position, is giving signs of encouragement to neighboring countries that have territorial disputes with China to stand against Beijing's claims amid the ongoing Sino-Japanese island row, said Tao Wenzhao, a senior researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
Concerning the ongoing Diaoyu Islands conflict, Bonnie Glaser, senior fellow with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said in the hearing that despite the US's neutral stance, the US must take actions under the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the US and Japan should Japan come "under attack." However, Peter Brookes, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Affairs, argued that the actions could only be taken after going through complicated procedures set by the US constitution, Phoenix TV reported.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Thursday that the Philippines' recent move will not affect China's sovereignty over areas within the sea.
"Manila has been using the term 'West Philippine Sea' since June last year. The new presidential order is a continuation of the Philippine policy, but the timing could lead to reasonable speculation that it is trying to fuel tensions in order to fish for advantage," said Zhuang Guotu, dean of the School of Southeast Asian Studies at Xiamen University.
China does not have to respond immediately to this "trick" as it does not affect the current situation, he said, noting that the Philippines' move would only backfire and hurt bilateral ties.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Philippines renaming South China Sea as West Philippine Sea can never change the fact that China has indisputable sovereignty over Nansha Islands, including the Huangyan Island, and their surrounding territorial waters in the South China Sea.
It’s reported that Philippine president Aquino announced Wednesday an administrative order to formally name the South China Sea as the "West Philippine Sea".
Asked to comment on the report, Hong said the name of South China Sea is recognized globally and also well accepted by the international community, and the United Nations.
Taiwan said it does not recognize the Philippines' renaming of the South China Sea to the West Philippine Sea, Taiwan's Central News Agency reported Wednesday.
Philippine president Benigno Aquino III issued an administrative order Wednesday, officially renaming the South China Sea to the West Philippine Sea, according to local media reports.
In an official response to Philippine’s provocative action, the Taiwanese “foreign ministry” said it upholds the basic principles of "safeguarding sovereignty, shelving disputes, peace and reciprocity, and joint development" in the South China Sea.
Only when cooler heads prevail can the claimant countries turn their attention to resolving the longer-term question of sovereignty and jurisdiction over the disputed islands and adjacent waters, whether through negotiation, adjudication, or joint development.
The Education Ministry of Vietnam and the Ho Chi Minh Communist Youth Union have recently signed an annual memorandum of cooperation, saying they would strengthen students’ awareness of the East Sea (South China Sea) sovereignty issue, Taiwan’s Central News Agency said Sept. 12, citing a report on a Vietnamese website (Vietnamnet.vn).
According to plans unveiled in the “2012-2013 Annual Cooperation Memorandum”, Vietnam will enhance young people’s awareness of their country’s “territorial claim” in the South China Sea.
Vietnam's Deputy Minister of Education and Training said the official propaganda campaign is aimed at improving both teachers and students’ political insight.
The report also added that the Thanh Nien daily, a newspaper published by the Ho Chi Minh Communist Youth Union, has called on the public to make donations to buy vessels named “Chu Quyen” (literally, sovereignty) for troops stationed in islands in the South China Sea.