The Chinese military is “far behind” that of the United States, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said Sunday.
He made the statement nearly a week after he said the Western power was the only defense ally the Philippines would have.
Meanwhile, President Rodrigo Duterte “effectively” invoked the arbitral ruling that invalidated China’s sweeping claim over the South China Sea when he told Beijing to “lay off” Pag-asa Island.
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo on Monday said the Duterte administration never shelved the Philippines’ victory against China in its international arbitration case in the West Philippine Sea.
“Effectively, his [Duterte] previous statement earlier when he said ‘do not touch our property, if you do any harm to our soldiers we will respond in kind.’ That effectively has already made a strong assertion of sovereignty and statement relatively to the arbitral ruling,” Panelo told reporters.
The spokesman, however, noted that Manila and Beijing should maintain “peace and equilibrium” in the disputed waters to avoid any conflict.
“We’re talking. We are supposed to be friends. So, let’s be friendly first—pag-usapan natin (let’s talk),” Panelo said.
“We have to forge a mutually satisfactory solution to the conflict in that area based on the directives of each [country’s] Constitution as well as the aspirations of the peoples of these two countries,” he added.
Beijing has refused to recognize a 2016 ruling from a United Nations-backed tribunal, which invalidated its claims over the South China Sea or West Philippine Sea.
The Philippine military recently expressed concern over the Chinese “maritime militia” vessels that had been almost stationary since January near Pag-asa Island in the disputed territory on the South China Sea.
A Twitter follower told Locsin that Beijing was making progress with striking capability, given the supposed development of new aircraft and surveillance ships.
“No. China is far, far, far, far behind the US in military destructive power,” Locsin said.
“The US military will remain 500 years ahead of the rest of the militaries in the world for the next 500 years. All aspiring powers must live with that prospect,” he said, quoting information from a book he did not identify.
Washington and Manila are bound by a half-century-old Mutual Defense Treaty, and military forces from the two countries engage in regular war games that see thousands of US troops and American military hardware brought to Manila.
Locsin last week said the US “is and will remain our only military ally.”
He also said the West Philippine Sea “is ours” and that China, from whom President Rodrigo Duterte sought investments and loans, “took it.”
China refuses to recognize a United Nations-backed arbitral tribunal’s ruling that invalidated its sweeping 9-dash line claim over the resource-rich waterway.
Philippine authorities have repeatedly raised concerns over China’s activities in the disputed waters, particularly its militarization efforts, which Beijing denies.
Locsin said he was “surprised” that China had kept the same approach in the West Philippine Sea under the Duterte administration, which a Twitter follower said was “friendlier” with the Asian power compared to the previous administrations.
“I am surprised. It is weird,” Locsin said.
“It is also distressing to the Panda huggers or the China lobbies in the Philippines, especially the trolls on their payroll.”
Manila would not give up its claim over the disputed territories even as it would seek cooperation with Beijing, Locsin said.
“There is more to China than reefs; it is that more we want to connect with without sacrificing or ever ever ever giving up the reefs on which our national honor is anchored. It can be done,” he said.
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