China confirms Philippine fishermen allowed into Scarborough Shoal

He said it would be consistent with a global arbitration ruling in July that invalidated Beijing's sweeping territorial claims in the South China Sea.

In a judgment that infuriated Beijing, the tribunal ruled in July there was no basis for China's claims to most of the South China Sea - where several nations have competing partial claims.

Carlos Isagani Zarate on Sunday said the U.S. does not have any right to step into the dispute between China and the Philippines over Scarborough Shoal, noting that Washington has done nothing to help Manila end the territorial row.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Beijing made "proper arrangements" regarding Scarborough Shoal after Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte expressed concern about the matter.

China took control of Scarborough Shoal, 230 kilometers west of the main Philippine island of Luzon, in 2012. The Philippine government, he said, would continue to assert its claim over the traditional fishing area.

Malaysian media reported that during his visit Najib will oversee the signing of more than 10 bilateral agreements, including ones on defense and economic cooperation.

"Filipino fishermen, who have been to Bajo de Masinloc, (the local name for Scarborough Shoal) say that they have observed an undetermined number of Chinese white ships in the area but [the Filipinos] were not subjected to any harassment by these vessels and they were able to fish in peace", he said in a statement.

Saturday's GMA report quoted Noel Daruca, a crew member of a boat that fished at the shoal, as saying that when they first arrived at the shoal Tuesday, Chinese Coast Guard personnel had told them "go!go!go!" but the crew was not denied access the next day. It is unclear if any conditions were placed upon the lifting of the blockade or how long it will last.

He said it would be consistent with the worldwide arbitration ruling that invalidated Beijing's sweeping territorial claims.

Esperon said neither country dropped its claim to the shoal, with China insisting on its "historical rights".

President Rodrigo Duterte reiterated that he will not conduct drills with Americans in his presidency while proposing joint military exercises with Japan during his recent visit to Tokyo.

He said Mr. Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping made a decision to sidestep the issue to fix frayed ties. The court declared that no one country had sovereign rights over the shoal.

"On the other hand, the United States also has no right to... interfere in the Panatag Shoal issue as in fact, it is... its saber-rattling and supposed Asian pivot that escalated the tension in the West Philippine Sea in the first place".

US Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Saturday told reporters in Beijing that China's withdrawal from Scarborough Shoal would be welcomed by Washington.

The meeting came five months after President Barack Obama visited Vietnam and lifted restrictions on arms sales to the former USA enemy.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled in favor of the Philippines in 2012 and invalidated China's historic claims to the resource-rich sea.

Kerry said he and Huynh would also discuss human rights - still a sore point in U.S. -Vietnam relations.

  • Leroy Wright