China incensed by 'unreasonable' US remarks on West Philippine Sea, region
This Jan. 1, 2018 satellite image shows China's installations on Fiery Cross or Kagitingan Reef in the West Philippine Sea.
CSIS/AMTI via DigitalGlobe

China incensed by 'unreasonable' US remarks on West Philippine Sea, region

Bella Perez-Rubio (Philstar.com) - November 24, 2020 - 10:34am

MANILA, Philippines — China is firing back at what it called the "unreasonable" remarks of US National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien on the South China Sea during his visit to the Philippines.

O'Brien on Monday reaffirmed the US' commitment to protecting the Philippines' sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea and echoed earlier remarks made by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that any armed attack on Filipino troops in the West Philippine Sea will trigger the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty.

"We are well beyond the days of imperialism where a country, because it is big or mighty, can simply take the patrimony of a smaller country because it has the might to do so," the national security advisor of the Philippines' longtime ally and former colonizer said.

The West Philippine Sea is the part of the South China Sea within the Philippines' Exclusive Economic Zone.

But in a statement released Monday night, the Chinese Embassy decried O'Brien's remarks, saying he "blatantly accused China on no ground, grossly interfered in China's internal affairs, deliberately exaggerated regional tensions and attempted to sow discord between China and the Philippines."

"We firmly oppose these remarks which are full of Cold War mentality and wantonly incite confrontation. It shows that his visit to this region is not to promote regional peace and stability, but to create chaos in the region in order to seek selfish interests of the US," the consulate added.

RELATED: UN chief warns against 'new Cold War'

O'Brien was in Manila for the handover of Washington's donation of defense materials worth approximately P868 million ($18 million), which US President Donald Trump promised to Duterte in a phone call in April.

However, in addition to reaffirming the US' support for the Philippines rights to the West Philippine Sea, he also slammed China for "extinguishing of the flame of democracy in Hong Kong" and warned that "any attempt to cause Taiwan to unify with China with anything other than persuasion or democratic election would be extraordinarily consequential" for Beijing.

US to blame for tension in South China Sea? 

"[I]n order to safeguard its regional and global hegemony, the US has regarded itself as 'patron' and 'judge' of regional countries and directly intervened in the [South China Sea] and other issues, fanned the flames everywhere, stirred up confrontation among the countries in the region, interfered in the efforts of China and relevant ASEAN countries to peacefully negotiate and manage disputes, and seriously undermined regional peace and stability," the Chinese embassy said.

It also claimed that the US is "the biggest driver of the militarization of the SCS and the most dangerous external factor endangering the peace and stability of the SCS," even as Beijing further militarized the area earlier this year while the rest of the world was grappling with the coronavirus pandemic, taking the opportunity to build new facilities on Philippine-claimed territories in West Philippine Sea.

China also hit the US for invoking and supposedly abusing the provisions of the United Nations Conventions on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) which Washington has yet to ratify even though it was an original architect of the treaty.

However, Gen. Gilbert Gapay,  Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief,  last month said that the situation in the South China Sea remains "volatile and uncertain" because of both the US and China, with Beijing's warships “practically swarming most of the areas in the West Philippine Sea” and Washington protecting its interests by advocating freedom of communication and navigation.

"This year, more than 70 countries, including the Philippines, have made statements to firmly support China and to oppose the interference in other countries’ internal affairs at the UN Human Rights Council, the UN General Assembly and other occasions," the Chinese embassy said.

"This reflects the common voice and just position of the international community and demonstrates that facts speak louder than words. We hope that some politicians in the US should focus more on solving their own domestic issues and stop making irresponsible remarks on the Taiwan and Hong Kong issue, which are purely China's internal affairs," it added.

President Rodrigo Duterte, who has touted a supposed independent foreign policy, in September invoked the Philippines' arbitral win in the South China Sea before the United Nations General Assembly, calling it "beyond compromise."

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