Beijing mouthpiece warns PH military of ‘strong response’ if Chinese vessels made to leave PH EEZ
MANILA, Philippines—A mouthpiece of the Chinese government warned of a “strong response” if the Philippine military acted rashly on the looming Chinese occupation of Julian Felipe (Whitsun) Reef, which is inside the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
Hu Xijin, editor of the Global Times newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party, accused Philippine officials of having ulterior motives in hyping up the incursion of Chinese vessels in the West Philippine Sea.
Global Times, a publication of the Chinese Communist Party’s newspaper People’s Daily, is considered as a mirror of official Chinese government policies.
“The US has a geopolitical need for the Philippines and China to increase friction in the South China Sea,” said Hu in a video posted on the Global Times website.
Hu said Philippine military officials were acting like puppets of the United States. “The Philippine military has many pro-American figures who are cooperating with Washington in this way,” Hu added.
“I would like to warn the Philippine military that it should not act rashly other than making some noise. Otherwise, China will definitely give a strong response,” he added.
The United States has expressed support for the Philippines’ fight to protect its sovereignty amid Chinese aggression and bullying. The two countries are bound by the Mutual Defense Treaty between them to come to each other’s aid in case of attacks by foreign powers.
The Philippines has repeatedly called on China to remove its militia boats at Julian Felipe Reef, which is inside Philippine EEZ. The Philippine military has carried out continued patrols to monitor the incursions of the Chinese vessels.
China disregarded the protest, saying it owned the reef, which it gave the Chinese name Niu’e Jiao. The area, according to Chinese officials, is part of Chinese territory in the South China Sea.
Hu threw insults at Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana’s statement that the Chinese vessels were part of a maritime militia sent to the area to occupy the reef, much like what China did in Panganiban Reef, another area inside Philippine EEZ.
Hu said Lorenzana’s statement was “nonsense.”
“The real situation is Niu’e Jiao is located within the nine-dash line,” Hu said, repeating the Chinese government’s mythical claim.
“Not only does China regard it as its own territory but more importantly, it is a regular fishing ground for Chinese fishermen,” Hu said.
The international arbitral ruling in The Hague in 2016 declared China’s mythical nine-dash claim to most of South China Sea as invalid and baseless. China, according to the ruling, violated Philippine sovereignty and Filipinos’ right to fish and explore resources in the West Philippine Sea. Beijing considered the ruling as trash.
Hu said he believed that the Philippine defense department was raising the issue in relation to Philippine elections in 2022 where China’s aggression in the South China Sea will “inevitably be a campaign topic once again.”
Lorenzana earlier said he was “no fool” to believe the Chinese explanation that the ships were just fishing boats that had taken shelter at the reef due to rough seas.
The Chinese Embassy in Manila also insulted Lorenzana, calling him “unprofessional” for demanding the Chinese ships’ withdrawal from Philippine EEZ and for making “wanton remarks.”
The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs has likewise denounced Beijing’s “blatant falsehoods such as claims of adverse weather conditions when there were none and the supposed non-existence of maritime militia vessels in the area.”
The DFA also reminded the Chinese Embassy that Chinese officials were just “guests” of the Philippine government and “must at all times observe protocol and accord respect to Philippine government officials.”
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