Spratly Islands of China Spratly Islands belongs to China Spratlys - Nansha Islands (Spratly Islands) of China
www.spratlys.org | Spratly Islands Maps | Spratly Islands News | Spratly Islands History | Spratly Islands Forums | Links
Spratlys > News > Chinese News > Feb 2004

Category: @News  @China

U.S. War Games Not Related To Disputed Island: Arroyo

This has nothing to do with the Spratlys issue which is being resolved through regional consensus and diplomacy,” Arroyo 

By Rexcel Sorza, IOL correspondent

ILOILO CITY, Philippines, February 11 (IslamOnline.net) - Anticipating tension with neighboring countries over the conduct of a military exercise with the American military in the disputed Spratly Islands, President Gloria Arroyo announced on Wednesday, February 11, that the war games have nothing to do with the Philippines’ claim over the territory.

“This has nothing to do with the Spratlys issue which is being resolved through regional consensus and diplomacy,” Arroyo stressed in an effort to avert an outbreak of tension with neighboring states which claim sovereignty over the group of islands in the South China Sea.

“The arrival of the U.S. troops this month is part of the continuing program of RP-U.S. military training exercises, which are important to our internal and external security as well as to the global fight against terrorism,” she said in an official statement released on Wednesday.

Vice Chief of Staff in the Philippines Armed Forces, Lieutenant General Rodolfo Garcia announced on Tuesday, February 10, that 2,300 Filipino soldiers will be joined by 2,500 American troops in the joint military training exercises.

The annual combat and live-fire maneuvers called “Balikatan '04” will be held from February 23 to March 4. It will focus on conventional warfare with some input on counter-terrorism. Garcia said the training would involve command post exercises, cross-training and field training exercises and civil and humanitarian assistance programs.

It would be held in the provinces of Batanes and Palawan, where the Spratly Islands are located. Other venues are Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija province, the former U.S. military facility Clark Air Base in Pampanga, Crow Valley in Zambales and the Marine base in Ternate, Cavite.

The first batch of American soldiers will arrive on February 13. The U.S. team is bringing 46 assorted aircraft including the C-12 Galaxy transport aircraft, the C-130 Hercules cargo and personnel transport craft and the CH-53 and CH-46 transport choppers.

Aircraft from the Philippine Air Force include the OV-10 attack aircrafts, the MG-520s and SF-260s and other choppers. Patrol gunboats from the Philippine Navy will also be used.


300 Filipino soldiers will be joined by 2,500 U.S. troops in the joint war games

The annual exercises, launched under a 1951 defense treaty to prepare the longtime military allies for joint combat, are aimed at dealing with external threats but would also deal in part with anti-terrorism scenarios, Philippine exercise director, Brigadier General Rafael Romero said. "This is not aimed at any singular threat," he said. "We just want to be prepared ahead of any crisis."

Arroyo also said that the country’s "strategic relationship with the United States is important for political and economic security-serving peace and stability in the region and bringing peace of mind to every Filipino."

"But this relationship is an instrument of goodwill and is not aimed at any nation or foe. These strategic underpinnings are inherent in our platform of governance and they have contributed to the confidence of other nations in the Philippines," she emphasized.

Tension might arise should the neighboring states of China, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam, which all claim Spratlys to be part of their territories, raise an issue over the conduct of military training exercises on the chain of islands in the South China Sea, which are believed to sit on vast mineral resources.

In November 2003, the Philippine government posed to raise a diplomatic protest with China over the sighting of their research vessels and warships in the area. It was, however, not pursued after a negotiation with the Chinese officials.

The “Spratlys issue” is considered a potential flashpoint in the region. Vietnam and China have clashed twice over the Spratlys, in 1988 and 1992, and since the 1990s, the Philippines has been concerned over a Chinese installation on the Spratlys atoll of Mischief Reef.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which includes Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam, signed an accord with China last year calling on all the claimants to the Spratlys to avoid actions which may heighten tensions there.

The Spratlys consist of several hundred islands, reefs and sea mountains, with a total land area of less than five square kilometers and scattered across approximately 800,000 square kilometers of the South China Sea.

China and Taiwan claim the entire chain. China occupies or has placed markers on seven to 10 reefs in the Spratlys, while Taiwan occupies one of the largest islands, known as Taipung or "Itu Abu".

Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines claim only some parts, based on proximity to their shores. All the claimants, except Brunei, have stationed troops in the area. Japan, which controlled the islands for most of the first half of the century, formally renounced sovereignty claims in 1951.

While guano (used as fertilizer) and fish are the only verified resources, there is long standing speculation that the Spratlys lie above considerable oil and natural gas deposits. Chinese sources in 1995 estimated reserves to be in the vicinity of 17.7 billion tons of oil and gas.


http://www.islam-online.net/English/News/2004-02/11/article06.shtml (accessed on 15 Feb 2004)
* note: zt means (zhuan tie)