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Sunday, April 14, 2024

Beijing blasts PH envoy over WPS remarks

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China, through its embassy in the Philippines, on Sunday strongly condemned Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel Romualdez for his remarks on the South China Sea issue, which Beijing said “disregarded basic facts.”

The remarks “wantonly hyped up the South China Sea issue and made speculations and malicious smears against China,” the Chinese Embassy in the Philippines said in a statement.

Romualdez last week said that while the United States sees both the South China Sea issue and a potential Taiwan conflict as “serious concerns”, the “real flashpoint is the West Philippine Sea” given “all of these skirmishes happening there.”

“Inviting wolves into the house and engaging in small circles will not only not help resolve the differences in the South China Sea, but on the contrary will complicate the regional situation, and undermine regional peace and stability,” the embassy said.

China exhorted Romualdez to stop spreading the “China threat theory” and “paranoia of persecution,” and to refrain from “acting as a spokesperson for other countries”.

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The Filipino ambassador expressed deep concern that tensions over the recent months between the Philippines and China are more alarming than the possibility of the Asian power invading Taiwan.

Manila’s claim over the West Philippine Sea has been sustained by the United Nations-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration as it declared invalid China’s nine-dash-line massive claims over the South China Sea in 2016.

According to Romualdez, the heightened tensions between China and Taiwan was a key concern, but a Chinese takeover was a calculated risk.

Beijing considers Taiwan a rogue province after it separated from the mainland in 1949.

Romualdez believed that Chinese President Xi Jinping “is not going to make a move unless he is absolutely sure that he can militarily take over Taiwan.”

“Deterrence is the only way to stop them from going into that kind of situation. So we’re hoping that every morning when President Xi wakes up he’s going to say, ‘Today’s not the day’,” the ambassador said.

Describing China’s actions in the West Philippine Sea as “worrisome,” President Marcos on Wednesday deplored the presence of Chinese ships in the WPS and interference on the electronic communication capabilities of Philippine vessels.

“It’s worrisome because there are two elements to that: one is that the previously only China’s Coast Guard was moving in our area. Now, also its Navy and fishing boats,” Mr. Marcos said.

“So, the situation is changing. Well, it’s clear for us. We just watch, of course, what everybody is doing, but really for us, we will continue. We just defend our maritime territory,” the President said.

Earlier, Philippine vessels on patrol and resupply missions to Philippine-claimed features in the resource-rich waters have been met with dangerous maneuvers by Chinese ships, including a laser-pointing incident, resulting in near-collisions at sea.

“The aggression that we are now facing is very real,” Romualdez admitted.

“Never in our lifetime even during World War II did we face such a challenge because this country will not let up on their claim in many of our territorial waters,” he said, referring to China.

Romualdez said the unpredictable situation in the waters is keeping him awake at night as it does President Marcos and other Philippine officials.

“All of these skirmishes that are happening there, there can be one major accident and either one of our countries the US or the Philippines can invoke the MDT and when we do, a commitment made by the US or the commitment we made will happen and then all hell breaks loose,” Romualdez said.

Nonetheless, the envoy stressed that despite the tit-for-tat between Manila and Beijing over the disputed waters with diplomatic protests, demarches, and the summoning of envoys, he said that “diplomacy is still the best option to pursue rather than engage in any conflict.”

“That’s what we are working hard on. We want to avoid having to find a situation where we will have to call each other saying we want to invoke the Mutual Defense Treaty, you have to defend us because the Chinese are already on our shores,” Romualdez said.

“We hope it will never happen.” The Mutual Defense Treaty, an agreement signed in 1951 between Manila and Washington, commits the two allies to come to each other’s aid if one becomes the subject of an armed attack in the region.

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