China warns PH, Japan on plane deal
China expressed alarm on Thursday about an agreement in which the Philippines will lease five aircraft from Japan to help patrol the disputed South China Sea.
President Aquino had said the five TC-90 training aircraft would help the Philippine Navy conduct surveillance flights over the country’s territory that is being claimed by China.
“If the Philippines’ actions are to challenge China’s sovereignty and security interests, China is resolutely opposed,” foreign ministry spokesperson Hong Lei told a news briefing, as reported by Reuters.
“I also want to point out that Japan is not a party to the South China Sea issue and we are on high guard against its moves. We demand that Japan speak and act cautiously and not do anything to harm regional peace and stability,” Hong said.
The Philippines has made modernization of its air and naval forces a priority as China has built islands and deployed missiles and jet fighters on a number of reefs in the South China Sea, in the area Filipinos call the West Philippine Sea and within its economic zone.
China claims almost the entire South China Sea, citing its ancient nine-dash-line, but Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims to parts of the sea.
China, the world’s second-largest economy, and Japan, the third-largest, have a difficult political history, with relations strained by the legacy of Japan’s World War II aggression and conflicting claims over uninhabited East China Sea islets.
Last week, the Philippines and Japan signed a deal on the transfer of military equipment and technology, a document Japan needs to allow it to export weapons and guarantee they will not be transferred to a third party.
The Philippine Department of National Defense said discussions were still ongoing on the mechanics of the lease of the five aircraft from Japan.
“Still up for discussion are the mechanics on how to acquire them, this will be discussed in another forum,” Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said in an interview in Camp Aguinaldo on Thursday. Julie M. Aurelio
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