China says relations with Philippines at ‘crossroads’ amid maritime incidents


MANILA: China on Monday warned the Philippines to behave cautiously and negotiate, saying their relations are at a “crossroads” as tensions deepened over a new confrontation between their coast guards over maritime claims.
It was the second such warning by the Chinese Foreign Ministry in three months, as the two countries openly debated territorial claims in the Spratly Islands, a mostly uninhabited archipelago. South China Sea,
The message came from China's Vice Foreign Minister Chen Xiaodong during a phone conversation with Philippine counterpart Theresa Lazaro as differences between the two countries escalated. second thomas shoal In the South China Sea.
In the call, Lazaro expressed Manila's “strongest protest against aggressive actions” by China's coast guard and maritime militia against the Philippines' resupply mission in the South China Sea, his ministry said in a statement.
Chen said in a statement: “China once again calls on the Philippines to honor its commitments and consensus, stop its maritime abuses and provocations, stop any unilateral actions that complicate the situation, and resolve differences through dialogue.” Urges to return to the right path of handling.” and consultation with China.”
The Philippines accused China's coast guard of using water cannon against a civilian boat supplying troops at Second Thomas Shoal on Saturday, saying it damaged the boat and injured some crew members. Went.
It was the latest in a series of incidents that erupted last year.
The Philippines' Foreign Ministry on Monday summoned China's charge d'affaires in Manila to protest over “aggressive actions” in the wake of the incident.
“China's continued interference in the Philippines' regular and lawful activities in its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) is unacceptable,” it said in a separate statement. It said a diplomatic protest had been lodged with Beijing.
“This is a violation of the sovereign rights and jurisdiction of the Philippines,” it said, demanding the Chinese vessels leave the area.
China's coast guard on Saturday said it has taken necessary measures against Philippine vessels intruding into its territorial waters.
Beijing claims almost the entire South China Sea, including the Second Thomas Shoal, which is within the Philippines' 200-mile (320-km) EEZ.
The Philippines deliberately moored an old warship in the shoal in 1999 as a means of bolstering its territorial claims and has since kept a small contingent of troops there.
China's Foreign Ministry said on Monday that the Philippines had reneged on a promise to remove the ship, “violating commitments made to the Chinese side on multiple occasions”.
The Philippines has repeatedly denied any such commitment and has said it will not abandon its position in the Second Thomas Shoal.
China has deployed hundreds of coast guard ships to patrol its waters throughout the South China Sea, despite a 2016 Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling in a case brought by Manila that said the claim was void under international law. There is no basis. China has refused to accept that result.
Philippine security chiefs convened a high-level meeting Monday on the alleged water cannon incident to formulate recommendations to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on how to proceed in the dispute.
China doubts US-Philippines partnership
Since taking power in 2022, Marcos has taken a tough stance against Chinese hostility and rejected Chinese pressure to move away from maritime features.
China views with suspicion efforts by Marcos to deepen engagement with defense treaty ally the United States, including increasing base access for American troops and expanding military exercises to include joint air and maritime patrols. Is.
Washington has said it stands with the Philippines as it condemned China's “dangerous actions.” Japan, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Canada, and Australia have also issued statements of support for the Philippines.
“The US is not a party to the South China Sea issue, but it has repeatedly interfered, provoking maritime issues between China and the Philippines,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lin Jian said at a news conference on Monday.
Philippine Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro suggested on Monday that China should prove the strength of its maritime claims through arbitration rather than ambiguity.
“If China is not afraid to state its claims to the world, why don't we mediate under international law?” Teodoro of the Philippines told reporters. “No country believes (their claims) and they see it as their way of using force, intimidation and bending the Philippines to their ambitions.”

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