fishing boats involved in standoff
Image source: – Philippine Navy/AP

MANILA – Chinese troops should go after Philippine ships and fishermen who go near the disputed Scarborough shoal, a Chinese navy official said.

Rear Admiral Yin Zhuo, director of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy’s Information Expert Committee, said this should be done to “Filipino vessels that hang around the lagoon and don’t leave,” the state-owned news agency China News Service (CNS) reported.

Yin said Chinese naval troops should board and search Philippine government ships and private fishing vessels.

He said this is already being done by the Philippines on Chinese fishing ships.

Yin said the “Philippines has not yet returned 24 Chinese fishing boats it is holding,” referring to Chinese boats intercepted in Philippine territory in October last year.

Yin, who is described by the CNS as a military expert, said Chinese troops “must try to maintain restraint, not force, not hurt people,” when going after Philippine ships found in waters near or at Scarborough shoal.

He said Chinese government ships should conduct more regular patrols in the waters off Scarborough to ensure the safety of Chinese fishing boats.

Yin told the People’s Daily that China’s navy will not hesitate to use deadly force against its enemies.

“Our navy has the absolute ability and the absolute confidence to use arms to defend our country’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and maritime rights. We’re just waiting for the order,” he said.

During a discussion with Chinese netizens on the state-owned People’s Daily website, Yin also said that Aquino’s plan to send ships anew to Scarborough shoal is part of a scheme between Manila and Washington to usher in the return of US military troops to Asia.

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He said the US and the Philippines — which are bound by a mutual defense treaty — want to use Scarborough shoal as a flashpoint to break China’s friendship with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Yin also accused Aquino of trying to “consolidate his regime” by pleasing military officials. He said Aquino inherited his mother’s bad relationship with the military, which the current Philippine president now wants to solve.

The Chinese military official likewise said Aquino’s tough stand on Scarborough “attacks domestic anti-American and pro-Arroyo forces in the Philippines.”

It is not known how much influence Yin wields in the PLA.

President Benigno Aquino said earlier that the Philippines may redeploy ships to the shoal to counter the presence of foreign vessels.

Philippine ships were forced to pull out of the area last weekend due to bad weather.

“If there is a presence in our territorial waters, then we will redeploy. But if there is no presence of other vessels that might impinge on our sovereignty, there is no need to deploy and they can go back to their normal routine of safeguarding — the Coast Guard, for instance — our coastlines,” Aquino told reporters.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, meanwhile, said that several Chinese ships have been spotted again around Scarborough shoal.

Gazmin said the Chinese vessels were spotted by a Philippine Air Force plane that was deployed to conduct a reconnaissance mission over the disputed area. (ABS CBN News)