Locsin to China: Don’t overinterpret
Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. took exception to the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s statement welcoming the Philippines’ decision not to join the United States-led joint naval exercises in the disputed South China Sea.
Reacting on Twitter to a news report, Locsin asked ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin not to read too much into Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana’s announcement on Monday that the Philippines would not join navies of other countries, including the United States, in maritime drills in the South China Sea.
“Wang, you’re reading too much into a simple directive not to join these naval exercises in the [South China Sea] at this time,” Locsin posted on Thursday after Wang said that the Philippines’ decision not to participate in the drills showed that Manila was against such exercises in the South China Sea.
Wang said China appreciated President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision that reflected the independent diplomacy pursued by the Philippines and shows the common aspirations of regional countries to seek peace and promote development.
China and Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) members are focusing on the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and economic recovery, he said, adding what they need is solidarity, cooperation, peace, and stability.
Wang said China would work with neighboring countries to overcome the pandemic, maintain regional development, safeguard the common welfare of the peoples in the region, and “properly resolve maritime disputes with the Philippines through friendly consultations.”
But Locsin asked Wang to define “properly” and threw back Wang’s statement that China’s position on the South China Sea issue was “consistent and clear.”
“The Philippine position has been ‘consistent and clear.’ What is ours is ours under the Arbitral Award and no one else can tell us different,” said Locsin, referring to the July 2016 arbitral ruling the Philippines won over China.
“Our relations have been going really well. Let’s keep it that way. We’re sitting out this one. We don’t know if we will the next one. Okay?” Locsin added.
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