PHILIPPINES, taking active steps to garner support : MANILA â€” Philippine President Benigno Aquino warned his countryâ€™s neighbors on April 23 that they should fear Beijingâ€™s growing aggressiveness over its claims in the South China Sea. Aquino stressed Chinaâ€™s territorial claims spanned a huge area and were getting â€œcloser and closerâ€ to the Philippine archipelago. â€œThey claim this entire body of water practically. Look at what is excluded and what they are claiming,â€ Aquino told reporters as he pointed to a map of the area. â€œSo how can the others not be fearful of what is transpiring?â€ Aquinoâ€™s comments came shortly after his government said it would raise an increasingly tense dispute with China over the Scarborough Shoal at a high-level bilateral meeting with the U.S. next week. Manila and Beijing have been locked in a standoff over Scarborough, a group of islands in the South China Sea, since Chinese vessels blocked Philippine attempts to arrest eight Chinese fishing boatsâ€™ crews earlier this month. Aquino said Scarborough was within the Philippinesâ€™ internationally recognized exclusive economic zone and questioned Chinaâ€™s historical basis for its claims. â€œItâ€™s like (their claims) are getting closer and closerâ€ to shore, he said. The shoal is about 230 kilometers (140 miles) from the Philippinesâ€™ main island of Luzon, while the nearest Chinese land mass is Hainan province 1,200 kilometers to the northwest, according to Philippine naval maps. With China ratcheting up the pressure, Manila said earlier April 23 the Scarborough issue would be formally raised in talks between Foreign Secretary Alberto del Rosario and Defence Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and their U.S. counterparts Hillary Clinton and Leon Panetta in Washington next week. The two nations are bound by a mutual defense pact in which the United States has pledged to come to the aid of its weaker ally if it faces military aggression. Manilaâ€™s move could further anger China, which has insisted the United States should have no role in the dispute. China claims almost the entire South China Sea and is also locked in disputes with Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam, as well as its rival Taiwan. But China said late April 23 that it had withdrawn two ships from the disputed area on April 22, leaving only one vessel for maritime surveillance, Chinaâ€™s official Xinhua news agency reported. It quoted a spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in the Philippines, Zhang Hua, as saying Beijing was trying to reduce tensions. â€œChina is ready to settle this incident through friendly diplomatic consultations,â€ Zhang said. The Philippines had earlier called on ASEAN countries to take a common stand against Beijing over the South China Sea, a call that has caused differences within the bloc fearful of antagonizing the regionâ€™s most powerful nation. The Global Times, a newspaper run by Chinaâ€™s ruling Communist Party, warned in an editorial at the weekend of a potential â€œsmall-scale warâ€ to end the Scarborough Shoal standoff. â€œOnce the war erupts, China must take resolute action to deliver a clear message to the outside world it does not want a war, but definitely has no fear of it,â€ the editorial said.