In this Oct. 8, 2018 photo, President Rodrigo Duterte greets Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua who paid a courtesy call on the president at the Malacañan Palace.
In this Oct. 8, 2018 photo, President Rodrigo Duterte greets Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua who paid a courtesy call on the president at the Malacañan Palace.
Presidential Photo/Simeon Celi
China assures Philippines: Not our policy to attack anyone in South China Sea
Patricia Lourdes Viray (philstar.com) - March 7, 2019 - 10:33am

MANILA, Philippines — Following Washington's assurance that it would protect Manila in case of an armed attack in the disputed South China Sea, Beijing declared that it is not out to attack anyone in the area.

Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua said Wednesday evening that China is more worried about possible attacks from "the other side," possibly referring to the United States.

"We are worried about possible attacks from the other side. We don’t worry about China attacking anybody because it is not our policy," Zhao told Malacañang reporters.

Zhao stressed that the Chinese government is concerned about maintaining peace and stability in the region.

The Chinese envoy added that Washington should be more concerned over other countries destabilizing this peace "rather than China initiating any move."

“Everybody, every country will suffer if peace and stability becomes something opposite. It’s chaos or conflict,” Zhao said.

Beijing is also more focused on maintaining peace and stability in the contested waterway, the Chinese envoy said.

“I think it is in the common interest of all countries, including China, the United States and ASEAN countries, that we keep the peace and stability there and we keep the freedom of navigation in the whole South China Sea open,” Zhao said.

China verifying reports Filipinos kept away from sandbars

Asked about reports that Chinese vessels are denying access to Filipino fishermen in sandbars near Pag-asa Island in the Spratlys, Zhao said the Chinese Embassy has yet to verify such reports.

In an Inquirer.net report, Kalayaan Mayor Roberto del Mundo said the presence of Chinese ships in the areas has been affecting fishing activities of Filipino fishermen.

Pag-asa Island, the second largest island in the Spratlys in the South China Sea or West Philippine Sea, is 12 nautical miles from Subi Reef, one of Beijing's military outposts.

“We are checking and we are in close coordination with Department of Foreign Affairs but rest assured China is committed to peacefully settle disputes we have and we are working very well in managing our differences,” Zhao said.

Last week, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo assured the Philippines that the US would back the country in case of an armed confrontation in the South China Sea.

This declaration came amid calls for a review of the provisions of the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty between the Philippines and the US.

"As the South China Sea is part of the Pacific, any armed attack on Philippine forces, aircraft or public vessels in the South China Sea would trigger mutual defense obligations under Article 4 of our Mutual Defense Treaty," Pompeo said in Manila.

Lorenzana, on the other hand, reiterated that current security conditions warrant a review of the decades-old treaty between the two countries.

"A couple years after the US left the bases, the Chinese began their aggressive actions in Mischief Reef — not an armed attack but it was aggression just the same. The US did not stop it," Lorenzana said.

"It is being involved in a war that we do not seek and do not want," he added. — with a report from The STAR/Christina Mendez

CHINA PHILIPPINES-CHINA TIES SOUTH CHINA SEA WEST PHILIPPINE SEA ZHAO JIANHUA
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