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China warns Philippines over US pivot

Marc Jayson Cayabyab - The Philippine Star
China warns Philippines over US pivot
Filipino fishermen fetch MV Kapitan Felix Oca at a designated rendezvous point in the West Philippine Sea on December 11, 2023.
Michael Varcas / The Philippine STAR

MANILA, Philippines — The Chinese foreign ministry has urged the Philippines to “reflect on its own actions,” particularly its pivot to traditional ally the United States, as highlighted by its historic trilateral summit with the US and Japan.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lin Jian made the appeal at a press conference on Friday in reaction to a pronouncement from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) that “it is known to all” that China is the “source of tension” in the region.

In its statement on Thursday, the DFA said it was China’s “excessive maritime claims and aggressive behavior (and) militarization of reclaimed features that are undermining regional peace and stability and raising tensions.”

The DFA’s statement came after the historic summit in Washington, where the Philippines, US and Japan slammed China’s provocative actions in the West Philippine Sea, such as its use of water cannons and blocking maneuvers to stop resupply trips to BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal. The beached Sierra Madre serves as outpost for a handful of Filipino soldiers.

But China maintained that it was the Philippines which was stirring trouble in the region because of its failure to honor a supposed gentleman’s agreement to keep the status quo, which the previous Duterte administration acknowledged but President Marcos rescinded.

“China’s position on the South China Sea is consistent and clear. Over the past few months, maritime disputes between China and the Philippines have heated up. The root cause is the Philippines’ breach of its commitments, frequent provocations and infringement on China’s territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests,” the Chinese foreign ministry official said.

Lin said DFA’s statement following the trilateral summit “tries to make the Philippines look like the victim and blame China” even if “it is the Philippines who should reflect on its own actions.”

“The Philippines has even attempted to get forces outside the region on board to embolden itself and put pressure on China. No provocation or coercion will deter China from safeguarding its sovereignty and rights and interests,” he said.

Lin said the Philippines made the wrong decision when it turned to the US for help instead of seeking dialogue with its closest neighbor China.

“The Philippines needs to know that it will not get its way by leaning on the US. The only path to a peaceful and stable region lies in commitment to good-neighborliness, returning to dialogue and consultation and maintaining strategic independence,” he said.

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