China cries foul over ‘false accusations’ in PH-US joint statement
MANILA, Philippines — China has decried the joint statement issued by the Philippines and the United States against its activities in the West Philippine Sea.
China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Wang Wenbin said they were “gravely concerned over and strongly disapproves [of] the joint statement of the US and the Philippines.”
“China has indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea Islands and the adjacent waters. The joint statement of the US and the Philippines misrepresents and discredits the legitimate and lawful maritime law enforcement activities of the Chinese side and even makes false accusations against China. We strongly oppose this,” he said in a press conference on Wednesday, April 12.
After the long-anticipated “2+2” ministerial dialogue of the top foreign and defense officials of Manila and Washington, the two longtime allies released a statement on the outcomes of their meeting.
In the joint statement, the two countries “underlined their strong objections to the unlawful maritime claims, militarization of reclaimed features, and threatening and provocative activities in the South China Sea, including the recent attempts of the People’s Republic of China to disrupt the Philippines’ lawful operations at and around Second Thomas Shoal and the repeated massing of PRC maritime militia vessels at several sites within the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone.”
The Philippines and the US also urged China “to fully comply with the final and legally binding 2016 Arbitral Award on the South China Sea.”
The Philippines has a long-standing dispute with China, which has made sweeping claims in nearly all of the South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea and its potential offshore oil and gas deposits and traditional fishing grounds.
In 2016, a ruling by the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration recognized the Philippines’ claim and rejected China’s “nine-dash line” in the disputed waters.
Wang, however, insisted that the arbitral award is “illegal, null, and void.”
“China’s position of not accepting or recognizing it is clear and firm. We stand ready to work with relevant countries to handle maritime disputes in a proper manner through negotiation and consultation while resolutely protecting our territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests,” he added.
Edca intention ‘more than obvious’
Wang also took note that China had repeatedly voiced out its position on the four additional sites under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca) of the Philippines and the US.
“Facts speak louder than words,” he said. “Judging from the locations of the new military bases, the intention behind those sites is more than obvious.”
Citing the joint statement, Wang noted that the two nations had also committed to “support swift operationalization of the four new sites.”
“It seems there is no need for China to provide any additional analysis or interpretation of that. So indeed, there is nothing to be surprised about when it comes to China’s response,” he said.
Wang then added: “We would like to once again remind the relevant country in the region that pandering to forces outside the region will not bring security, but cause tensions, put regional peace and stability at risk, and eventually backfire.”
The Chinese Embassy in Manila had previously warned the Philippines against allowing US troops access to more of its military bases – particularly in Northern Luzon and Palawan, saying this would “seriously harm Philippine national interests and endanger regional peace and stability.”