Chinese Embassy tells US to stay out of issue of Chinese ships in West Philippine Sea

Chinese Embassy tells US to stay out of issue of Chinese ships in West Philippine Sea
This March 7, 2021 photo shows Chinese maritime militia ships moored in line formation at the Julian Felipe Reef in the West Philippine Sea.

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines and China can "properly handle relevant issues" on the South China Sea, the Chinese Embassy in Manila said Tuesday night in response to a US Embassy statement on Chinese ships in the West Philippine Sea.

In a tweet, the Chinese Embassy said that a US Embassy's statement on the presence of Chinese ships in Julian Felipe (Whitsun) Reef "undermine regional peace and satibility" and that the matter should be left to bilateral channels.

"The United States is not a party to the South China Sea issue," the Chinese Embassy said.

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In a statement earlier Tuesday, the US Embassy said it shares the concerns of the Philippines over the presence of more than 200 Chinese ships in the area. The Philippines has filed a diplomatic protest with China and has demanded that it withdraw the ships.

In its statement, the US Embassy said China "uses maritime militia to intimidate, provoke, and threaten other nations, which undermines peace and security in the region."

"Chinese boats have been mooring in this area for many months in ever increasing numbers, regardless of the weather. We stand with the Philippines, our oldest treaty ally in Asia," it also said.

The Chinese Embassy has denied that the ships are part of a maritime militia, saying on Monday that "some Chinese fishing vessels take shelter near Niu'e Jiao due to rough sea conditions. It has been a normal practice for Chinese fishing vessels to take shelter under such circumstances." 

On Tuesday, the embassy said of US comments that "fanning flames and provoking confrontation in the region will only serve the selfish interests of individual country and undermine the regional peace and stability."

"Both China and the Philippines are sovereign and independent countries. We have the will, wisdom and ability to properly handle relevant issues through bilateral channels," it also said.

The Palace has expressed confidence that the presence of Chinese ships at Julian Felipe Reef, which is part of the Kalayaan Island Group in the West Philippine Sea, will not lead to a standoff similar to the one over Panatag Shoal in 2012.

"Everything can be discussed by friends and neighbors," presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said on Monday. 

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