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In dispute with China, Philippines foreign secretary has had enough

2012/04/30 22:52:54

Manila, April 30 (CNA) The Philippines' secretary of foreign affairs is refusing to meet with the Chinese ambassador to the country to discuss tensions in the South China Sea, a Philippine official said Monday.

Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario broke off talks with Ma Keqing on April 25, a Philippine official told CNA, because of what the Department of Foreign Affairs later described as "incomplete, inaccurate, and misleading" information Ma sent to Beijing regarding the recent dispute.

His subordinates have now taken up negotiations with Ma over the issue, said the Philippine official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The two countries have been at odds over a recent standoff in waters near Scarborough Shoal, a disputed island group both countries claim as their own but that lies much closer to the Philippines than to China.

The Philippines has accused Chinese fishing vessels of encroaching on its Exclusive Economic Zone near the shoal, but a navy frigate it sent to investigate was cut off by larger Chinese vessels sent to the scene.

The secretary talked to Ma three times in hope of resolving the sovereignty row but to no avail and finally had assistant foreign secretary Maria Lazaro present a note verbale to Ma to protest the messages she sent to Beijing, said the official.

Del Rosario, who is in Washington D.C. for a 2+2 meeting, said before departing for the United States that even before any accord had been reached, Ma told Beijing that the Philippines had violated an agreement to withdraw its ships from the disputed waters.

The Chinese embassy said in a statement on April 26, however, that it was "shocked" by the Philippines' accusations and denied them.

Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei also claim large parts of the South China Sea, which is believed to sit atop vast deposits of natural gas and oil.

(By Emerson T. Lim and Kendra Lin)
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