Japan, Australia voice concern over ‘destabilizing action’ amid China incursion
MANILA, Philippines—Japan and Australia expressed concern over what their officials said were “destabilizing actions” that could escalate tension in the South China Sea without directly referring to the continued incursion of Chinese vessels near Julian Felipe (Whitsun) Reef in the West Philippine Sea.
After the United States announced it was supporting the Philippines in the latest episode of Chinese aggression in the South China Sea, Japan, through its ambassador, declared that it “strongly opposes any action that heightens tensions.”
“The South China Sea issues are directly related to peace & stability and a concern for all. Japan strongly opposes any action that heightens tensions,” said Japanese Ambassador to Manila Koshikawa Kazuhiko on Twitter on Tuesday night (March 23).
“We support the enforcement of #RuleOfLaw in the sea & work with the int’l community to protect the free, open, and peaceful seas,” Kazuhiko tweeted.
The comments drew an angry reaction from China, which accused Japan of “acting as a vassal state” of the US.
“It is a pity that some Asian country, which has disputes with China in the East China Sea and is driven by the selfish aim to check China’s revitalization, willingly stoops to acting as a strategic vassal of the US,” the Chinese Embassy in Manila said in a statement.
“China, as a littoral state of the South China Sea, is committed to managing differences through bilateral consultations and safeguarding peace and stability in the region,” the embassy said in a statement, using the word littoral which means situated on the shore of a sea.
“Within our region tensions are rising because some external countries are bent on playing futsy political games,” it added.
“Such despicable behavior is inviting the wolf into the house, betraying the collective interests of the whole region and doomed to fail,” the Chinese embassy said.
On Wednesday (March 24), Australian Ambassador Steven Robinson, also on Twitter, said his country was “concerned about destabilizing actions that could provoke escalation.”
“Australia supports an #IndoPacific region which is secure and inclusive,” Robinson said in a tweet.
“The South China Sea—a crucial international waterway—is governed by international rules and norms, particularly the Unclos,” he wrote, referring to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
The Chinese incursion continued despite a diplomatic protest filed by the Philippine government on Sunday (March 21) and a demand by Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana for the ships to leave the area.
On Monday (March 22), the Philippine military spotted at least 183 Chinese militia vessels on the boomerang-shaped reef inside the Philippines’ EEZ from 220 vessels reported by the Philippine Coast Guard last March 7.
The ships haven’t left, in an apparent mockery of the Philippine protest and Lorenzana’s demand.