China brushes off diplomat ‘ban’
MANILA, Philippines—The Chinese embassy in Manila on Wednesday rejected Philippine criticism of one of its senior officials who has been “banned” from the Department of Foreign Affairs, amid high tensions over a maritime row.
The DFA said in an internal memo that the mission’s first secretary Li Yonsheng was no longer welcome at its premises, accusing him of verbally abusing a Filipino official at a June meeting on the rival claims.
In a barbed reaction to the unsigned statement which was shown to the press Tuesday, Chinese embassy spokesman Sun Yi told Agance France-Presse: “We don’t want to comment on the remarks by someone who hides his or her name.”
“Each and every diplomat of the Chinese embassy in the Philippines is working with every sense of sincerity and responsibility for the improvement and development of the China-Philippines friendly relations.”
The diplomatic snub follows Philippine allegations of increasingly forceful Chinese actions in resources-rich areas of the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) that are claimed by both countries.
The Philippines has accused Chinese forces of opening fire on Filipino fishermen, shadowing an oil exploration vessel employed by a Philippine firm, and putting up structures in Philippine-claimed areas.
In the latest incident, it said an unidentified foreign plane harassed a group of Filipino fishermen in the West Philippine Sea last month with a flyover that the navy said was a plain warning.
President Benigno Aquino has asked Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario to explore ways of peacefully settling the territorial dispute during a two-day visit to Beijing due to begin Thursday.
Aquino also said he expects to make his own visit to China this year.
The Philippines and China, along with Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan, each claim all or part of the West Philippine Sea—particularly the Spratlys, a chain of islets in the area that are believed to sit on vast mineral resources.
Tensions have escalated in recent weeks, with the Philippines and Vietnam voicing alarm at what they say are increasingly aggressive Chinese actions there.
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