China-Philippines row over island

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 China has slammed Manila’s attempt to rename Huangyan Island as Beijing is set to launch its first deep water oil rig in the South China Sea.

Manila declared last week that it would rename Huangyan Island as Panatag Shoal and is considering removing signs on the island related to China, China Daily reported Tuesday.

Manila also planned to involve other countries and organisations in the dispute by raising the issue before international tribunals.

China warned Monday that Manila’s actions targeting Huangyan Island were “illegal and invalid” and will not change the fact that the island belongs to Beijing.

“We strongly urge the Philippines to return to diplomacy,” and any remark or move that complicates or intensifies the situation is nonsensical, foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said.

Huangyan Island has been an integral part of China’s territory for centuries and that Manila did not challenge Beijing’s sovereignty over the island until 1997, he said.

A Philippine warship entered the island’s territorial waters April 10 and dispatched personnel to harass Chinese fishing boats and attempted to detain Chinese fishermen, the report said.

Two Chinese patrol ships came to the fishermen’s rescue, and the warship left.

Meanwhile, China’s first home-made deep water rig will formally start operations Wednesday in the South China Sea.

China National Offshore Oil Corp said deep-sea equipment, capable of operating at depths of 3,000 meters, will drill the first well 320 km southeast of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

About 70 percent of oil and gas reserves in the resource-rich South China Sea are more than 300 meters deep across an area of 1.54 million sq km.

The South China Sea is estimated to have 23-30 billion tonnes of oil and 16 trillion cubic meters of natural gas, accounting for a third of China’s total oil and gas resources.

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