Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua said the region should be more concerned about other countries that are destabilizing peace and stability in the region than about China initiating any move.
Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua said the region should be more concerned about other countries that are destabilizing peace and stability in the region than about China initiating any move.
KJ Rosales
China downplays US commitment to defend Philippines
Christina Mendez (The Philippine Star) - March 8, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Beijing downplayed Wednesday night the renewed commitment of the US government to come to the aid of the Philippines if the latter is attacked in the South China Sea.

Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua said the region should be more concerned about other countries that are destabilizing peace and stability in the region than about China initiating any move.

“Maybe, you would expect the Chinese side to be very concerned about these remarks. We are concerned more (if) it’s about the peace and stability in the South China Sea. Everybody, every country, will suffer if peace and stability becomes something to the opposite, that it’s chaos or conflict,” the Chinese ambassador said in a chance interview at Malacañang last night.

“So I think it is in the common interest of all countries, including China, including 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,” he added.

Zhao was asked for reaction on the assurance US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave last week to President Duterte that the US would defend the Philippines against any imminent attack in the South China Sea as this is covered by the Mutual Defense Treaty between the Philippines and the US.

“Well, we are worried about possible attacks from the other side. We don’t worry about China attacking anybody because it is not our policy,” he said.

When pressed if he is referring to the US, Zhao said: “The other side, use your imagination.”

In the same interview, Zhao said the embassy is still going to verify reports that Chinese vessels are driving away Filipino fishermen at Pag-asa Island.

“I took note of the media report but whether it is authentic or not, it is something that is subject to clarification. I read in the newspaper also that your Secretary of National Defense has already denied, there is no such thing that happened in that area,” he added.

The embassy is working with the Department of Foreign Affairs regarding the reports.

Zhao gave assurance that “we are checking and we are in close coordination with DFA and we will be checking whether it is true or not, but rest assured China is committed to peacefully settle the disputes we have and we are working very well in managing our differences.”

He also said that China is committed to work on the Code of Conduct between China and ASEAN countries to ensure stability in the South China Sea and the rest of the region.

“In the meantime, we are working on the COC, Code of Conduct, and the Filipino side is the country coordinator for China-ASEAN relationship so we are hoping that we can make further progress in our joint efforts to maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea,” he added.

Wrong time to review MDT

Meanwhile, former foreign secretary Albert del Rosario said the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) may be reviewed and improved but it is the wrong time to undertake an official review as China is seen to exert both external force and internal influence to achieve results for its sole benefit.

He said there is no need to review the MDT “given this official assurance that the US will defend the Philippines against any attack in the South China Sea,” referring to Pompeo’s statement that US obligations under the MDT are “real.” – With Pia Lee-Brago

 

 

SOUTH CHINA SEA ZHAO JIANHUA
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