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War and peace on the high seas

MANILA (AsiaNews): The sidelines of the November 18 to 19 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) held in Manila, The Philippines, was a busy place, with negotiations on war and peace on the high seas a big part of the unofficial agenda.

The president of the host nation, Noynoy Aquino, was busy lobbying Japan for support ships to patrol the waters of the West Philippine Sea, which China refers to as the South China Sea.

Manila and Tokyo have already signed an agreement that will see Japan supplying high-tech military equipment to The Philippines, which reflects the determination of the prime minister, Shinzo Abe, to break with the nation’s past and effectively demolish its pacifist stance.

In a most unpopular move, Abe railroaded alterations to Japan’s interpretation of its Article Nine Peace Constitution earlier this year, which is being interpreted as an aggressive step on his part amidst the turbulent mood in Asia at present.

However, if Abe agrees to Aquino’s overture, it may signal that Japan does not plan to make an aggressive move against China in its dispute over the Senkaku Islands, or the Diaoyu Islands, as China refers to them.

However, one of Japan’s undertakings is that it will ensure that any military hardware supplied to a second nation will never end up in the hands of a third country.

Manila, along with Vietnam, is also seeking a non-binding international ruling from the United Nations on territorial rights, as both are worried over what they term the imperialism of Beijing in the disputed waters.

The United States of America has also weighed in on the issue, speaking of what China calls its Nine-Dash Line as the Cow-Tongue Line and expressing concern that any one country should control shipping rights in one of the busiest routes in the world and in an area believed to be rich in oil, minerals and gas.

Its president, Barack Obama, spoke strongly during the APEC meeting against China claiming space in the disputed waters.

On a more peaceful note, Aquino also met with the president of Taiwan to sign an agreement stating that neither side would adopt a violent approach to any disputes in their declared fishing territories.

This has followed two years of testy negotiations since The Philippines fired upon a Taiwanese fishing boat which it claimed was trespassing in its waters and acting aggressively. A crew member of the Taiwanese boat, Hung Shih-cheng, was killed in the encounter.

The Foreign Ministry in Taipei called the agreement a result of the peace and harmony policy promoted by the president, Ma Ying-jeou, in the resolution of all disputes.


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