Fu Ying, the Chinese Vice Foreign Minister, said Beijing was fully prepared for an escalation of a drawn-out maritime standoff with the Philippines, as a tense row over a disputed shoal continues.
“The Chinese side has… made all preparations to respond to any escalation of the situation by the Philippine side,” she told a Philippine diplomat in Beijing Monday, according to a statement posted on the foreign ministry website Tuesday.
The two countries have been locked in a territorial row over the disputed Scarborough Shoal — or Huangyan Island in Chinese — in the South China Sea for one month, with both sides sending ships to the area in a tense standoff.
It is one of the most high-profile flare-ups in recent years between the two countries over their competing territorial claims to parts of the South China Sea, which is believed to sit atop vast oil and gas deposits.
The row erupted on April 8 when Chinese vessels blocked a Philippine warship from arresting crews of Chinese fishing boats off the shoal, which both countries claim as their own.
Currently, four Chinese surveillance ships and 10 fishing boats have anchored off the disputed shoal, facing off with two Philippine coast guard ships and a fisheries bureau vessel.
On Monday, Fu called Alex Chua, charge the affaires at the Philippine embassy in China, to make a “serious representation” over the situation, according to the statement.
“It is obvious that the Philippine side has not realized that it is making serious mistakes and instead is stepping up efforts to escalate tensions,” she told him.