The Philippines are continuing to make trouble in the South China Sea, and are now providing indications of their true intentions on the Ren'ai Reef issue.
On March 14, 2014, the ministry of foreign affairs of the Philippines made an announcement that in response to China's "illegal occupation" of the Mischief Reef in 1995, the Philippines had placed a warship on the Ren'ai Reef as a permanent facility in 1999, and that the whole incident had taken place before the signing of the Declaration on the Code of Conduct on the South China Sea in 2002. It also declared that the Ren'ai Reef is part of the continental shelf of the Philippines, and therefore the Philippines has sovereignty and jurisdiction over the reef. This announcement represents a clear admission that in support of an illegal occupation, the Philippines placed a warship on the Ren'ai Reef fifteen years ago. The old tank landing ship was scuttled on the reef on May 9, 1999, on the pretext that it was shipping water from below the water line.
During the negotiations that took place in 1999, the Philippines made several commitments to China that the broken ship would be towed away. In addition, after signing the Declaration on the Code of Conduct on the South China Sea, the Philippines made a solemn promise that they would not be the first to violate this declaration over the Ren'ai Reef issue.
Fifteen years have passed, and the Philippine ship is still on the Ren'ai Reef with naval troops on board. The dissembling has finally come to an end. Where the Philippines used to hide their true intentions, the mask has now been removed and they are asking China to recognize their actions as a 'fait accompli'.
According to international law, whether the Ren'ai Reef is part of the Philippines' continental shelf or not, there is no legal justification for seizing Chinese territory. The Philippine ship was placed on the Ren'ai Reef before the signing of the Code of Conduct on the South China Sea, but this does not mean that the Philippines can do as it wants: its presence in Chinese territory is illegal, and it cannot be made "permanent".
The aggressive nature of the Philippines stance is founded on the belief that it has U.S. backing. Two days before the announcement, a spokesperson for the State Department of the U.S. criticized China for preventing Philippine ships from transporting construction materials to Ren'ai Reef, emphasizing that "the Philippines have maintained a presence on the Ren'ai Reef since 1999". He affirmed that the Philipines "have the right to provide supplies and rotate soldiers for a site that was established before the validation of the Declaration on the Code of Conduct on the South China Sea". The statement made by the US was similar to that of the Philippines: it presented the illegal occupation as a "fait accompli" that could be justified, and implied that China's legitimate response was a "provocative act" that might "trigger regional tension".
It is a good thing that the Philippines have made their intentions clear with regard to the Ren'ai Reef issue. Any future moves by the Philippines on the Ren'ai Reef can be understood as a declaration that they intend to maintain their illegal presence. China will not tolerate any form of occupation of Ren'ai Reef by the Philippines - whatever support might be offered by whichever country. If the Philippines insist on further provocation, they can expect to suffer the consequences.
The article is edited and translated from《美国一帮腔 菲律宾就狂妄》, source: People's Daily Overseas Edition, author: Hua Yiwen.