Beijing slams trilateral summit, says South China Sea actions ‘lawful’

Pia Lee-Brago - Agence France-Presse
Beijing slams trilateral summit, says South China Sea actions �lawful�
This photo taken on March 5, 2024 shows China Coast Guard vessels deploying water cannons at the Philippine military chartered Unaizah May 4 (R) during its supply mission to Second Thomas Shoal in the disputed South China Sea. The Philippines said on March 5 that China Coast Guard vessels caused two collisions with Philippine boats and water cannoned one of them, leaving four crew injured during a resupply mission in the South China Sea.
AFP / Jam Sta Rosa

MANILA, Philippines — Beijing on Friday criticized the US, Japan and the Philippines and defended its actions in the South China Sea (SCS) as “lawful” after US President Joe Biden hosted a trilateral meeting in Washington.

Biden on Thursday pledged to defend the Philippines from any attack in the SCS at the White House summit, which came amid repeated confrontations between Chinese and Philippine vessels in the disputed waterway that have raised fears of wider conflict.

A joint statement issued by the leaders of the trio of nations voiced “serious concern” over Beijing’s actions in the SCS, slamming its behavior as “dangerous and aggressive.”

Beijing claims almost the entirety of the SCS, brushing aside competing claims from several Southeast Asian nations, including the Philippines.

On Friday China hit out at the joint summit in Washington, with foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning saying Beijing “firmly opposes the relevant countries manipulating bloc politics, and firmly opposes any behavior that provokes or lays plans for opposition and hurts other countries’ strategic security and interests.”

“We firmly oppose engaging in closed cliques that exclude others in the region,” Mao told a regular press conference.

“Japan and the Philippines can, of course, develop normal relations with other countries, but they should not invite factional opposition into the region, much less engage in trilateral cooperation at the cost of hurting another country’s interests.

“If these are not wanton smears and attacks on China, what are they?” she said.

“China’s actions in the East China Sea and South China Sea are appropriate and lawful, and beyond reproach,” Mao added.

China has set conditions in exchange for continuing a dialogue with the Philippines to ease tensions in the West Philippine Sea, demanding Manila to tow away the warship BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal as soon as possible, saying Beijing’s position is “clear-cut.”

In a statement, the Chinese embassy in Manila enumerated yesterday China’s demands on the Philippines in handling the current situation at Ayungin Shoal, which China calls Ren’ai Jiao.

By keeping its warship grounded at Ayungin Shoal for decades running, the embassy accused the Philippines of violating China’s sovereignty and the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC).

“We demand that the Philippines tow away the warship as soon as possible and restore Ren’ai Jiao’s state of hosting zero personnel and facilities,” the unnamed embassy spokesperson said.

“Before the warship is towed away, if the Philippines needs to send living necessities, out of humanitarianism, China is willing to allow it if the Philippines informs China in advance and after on-site verification is conducted. China will monitor the whole process,” the spokesperson added.

China warned the Philippines about sending large amounts of construction materials to the warship and attempts to build fixed facilities and a permanent outpost.

“China will not accept it and will resolutely stop it in accordance with law and regulations to uphold China’s sovereignty and the sanctity of the DOC,” the spokesperson said.

China, the spokesperson said, is always committed to managing SCS disputes with the Philippines through dialogue and consultation and has made “relentless” efforts in this regard.

If the Philippines truly wants to ease tensions at Ayungin Shoal through dialogue and communication, the spokesperson said the key is for it to “honor the commitments and understandings and stop provocations,” noting that China’s position on how to deal with the current situation at Ayungin Shoal is clear-cut.

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