Sun, May 27, 2012 - Page 4 News List

Philippines names new ambassador in China standoff

AFP, MANILA

Philippine President Benigno Aquino III named a veteran diplomat as ambassador to China amid a tense standoff over disputed territory in the South China Sea, a presidential spokeswoman said yesterday.

Sonya Brady, 70, who served as ambassador in Beijing from 2006 to 2010, was named to her old post amid a growing clamor for a skilled diplomat to handle the frayed ties caused by the territorial dispute.

Aquino wanted “someone who is already familiar with the politics and the culture of that country. That person can hit the ground running,” spokeswoman Abigail Valte said.

However, Brady cannot assume her post until Congress approves her appointment, Valte said.

The Chinese embassy could not be contacted for comment.

Aquino had originally named a family friend, businessman Domingo Lee, as ambassador last year, but Congress refused to approve the posting, saying Lee was inexperienced.

Relations between the two countries worsened after Chinese ships blocked Philippine vessels from arresting Chinese fishermen in the South China Sea in April. Both countries have deployed vessels near the disputed Scarborough Shoal for more than a month to press their conflicting claims to the area.

The Scarborough Shoal is known as Huangyan Island (黃岩島) in China and Taiwan, which also lays claim to it.

China has impounded Philippine fruit shipments and warned tourists against visiting the Philippines while Manila has charged that Beijing is sending even more ships to the shoal

The Philippines has turned to its main defense ally, the US, for support. Aquino is due to meet with US President Barack Obama in the White House next month.

“This is no way in connection with the standoff,” Valte said.

It had been planned since US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton extended the invitation during a visit to the Philippines in November, she added.

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