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Philippines’ largest warship, Chinese vessels in standoff in disputed South China Sea April 10,2012   |  Source: AP

The Philippines’ largest warship was engaged in a tense standoff with Chinese surveillance vessels Wednesday at a disputed South China Sea shoal, after the ship attempted to arrest Chinese fishermen but was blocked by the surveillance craft.

Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert Del Rosario has summoned Chinese Ambassador Ma Keqing in an attempt to resolve the impasse diplomatically. Del Rosario’s office said in a statement that the Scarborough Shoal “is an integral part of Philippine territory” and Filipino authorities would assert sovereignty over the offshore area.

The Chinese Embassy has accused the Philippine warship of harassing the fishermen.

China and the Philippines both claim ownership of the shoal — which lies off the northwestern Philippine province of Zambales — as well as other areas in the South China Sea.

The Spratly Islands south of the shoal are claimed by China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan. The chain of barren islands, reefs and coral outcrops are believed to be in rich in oil and gas and the overlapping claims have long been feared as Asia’s next flashpoint for armed conflict.

The current standoff began Sunday when a Philippine navy surveillance plane sighted eight Chinese fishing vessels anchored in a


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