China: PH using ‘foreign forces’ to sow trouble in SCS
China has accused the Philippines of enlisting “foreign forces” to patrol the South China Sea (SCS) to stir up trouble, referring to the three-day joint patrols this week by Philippine and US forces in the West Philippine Sea.
The Chinese military would maintain high vigilance, resolutely defend sovereignty and maritime rights and interests, and resolutely safeguard peace and stability in the South China Sea, China’s military said on Thursday.
“The Philippines enlisted forces out of the region to patrol … stirred up trouble and engaged in hype, undermining regional peace and stability,” the southern theater command of the Chinese military said.
There was no immediate comment from the Department of Foreign Affairs.
On Wednesday, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson noted that China had warned the United States and the Philippines in connection with their patrols.
“China has made clear its position to the Philippines and the US that the Philippine-US joint patrols must not undermine China’s territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests,” spokesperson Mao Ning said.
President Marcos on Tuesday announced the joint patrol to enhance the interoperability of Philippine and American military forces in conducting joint activities.
“Through collaborative efforts, we aim to enhance regional security and foster a seamless partnership with the United States in safeguarding our shared interests,” he said.
A right under Unclos
At the Bagong Pilipinas Ngayon news briefing on Thursday, Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesperson Col. Medel Aguilar said a “passing exercise” was held with a US Navy vessel during the joint patrol which “involves, of course, the opening of protocols and courtesy that is all always executed whenever two vessels coming from different countries meet at sea and at the same time, there will be exchanges of communications, there will be maneuvers.”
More want to join
“Those are the kind of activities that will make sure that interoperability of two naval units is enhanced through this activity,” he added. “The context of our undertaking the joint air and maritime patrol in the area of our West Philippine Sea is to assert our sovereign rights in our maritime zone and at the same time, promote the international convention that is in support of a rules-based international order.”
Aguilar maintained that the country had a right to conduct patrols within its exclusive economic zone under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos), and that similar activities were being planned with other countries.
“Many want to have joint activities with us—we are ironing out the necessary terms, references, and agreement so that we can have the correct process to follow,” Aguilar said.
“There are a lot of countries that are very interested in partnering with us in the conduct of several activities that we believe will also help us promote our national interest. But right now, I cannot announce or name specifically what these activities are because these are work in progress,” he noted. —REPORTS FROM REUTERS AND JEROME ANING