Damien McElroy: Chinese Media Warns of War with Philippines!
China warned its citizens in the Philippines to "stay indoors" on Thursday as its state media warned of war over a month-long dispute in the South China Sea. Territorial rivalry has escalated throughout the seas around China, as regional and international navies seek to establish rights of passage against an expanding Chinese presence. Chinese and Philippine vessels have been locked in a high seas stand-off since the PLA Navy prevented a Philippine warship from arresting crews of Chinese fishing boats near the Scarborough Shoal on April 8. Both countries claim the fish-rich shoal as their own, and protests by Philippine fishermen over their loss of livelihood have drawn mass support in the south-east Asian country. China International Travel Service, the state-owned tourism operator, yesterday suspended ties with the Philippines, after organizers announced plans to demonstrate outside Chinese embassy buildings and property today. Beijing also issued a travel advisory, warning its citizens to keep a low profile. "Avoid going out at all if possible, and if not, to avoid going out alone," it said. "If you come across any demonstrations, leave the area, do not stay to watch." Reports in Japan said five Chinese warships, including two guided missile destroyers, two frigates and an amphibious landing ship, had passed through waters close to Okinawa moving to Philippine reefs. As the dispute escalated, Leon Panetta, the US defense secretary, met senators in a push to ratify a treaty that would bolster legal backing for US naval patrols in disputed regions such as the South China Sea. Seizing on arnings of the dangers of escalating "gunboat diplomacy" Mr Panetta called on the Senate to ratify the Laws of the Sea, a UN treaty that has been hindered by procedural disputes. "By moving off the sidelines and leading the discussion, we would be ensure that our rights are not whittled away by the excessive claims and erroneous interpretations of others."