Beijing: China today voiced “resolute opposition” to the US-Philippines joint patrols in the South China Sea, saying the “harmful” move will flare regional contradictions and damage peace and stability in the disputed territory.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry spelled out China’s stance after the Pentagon said that US-Philippine joint patrols in the South China Sea will occur “regularly”. The ministry said China expresses “resolute opposition against infringement of China’s sovereignty and security by any country in any form”.
“The military exchanges … should not target a third party, not to mention supporting some countries to provoke China’s sovereignty and security, flaring regional contradictions and damaging regional peace and stability,” the Foreign Ministry told state-run ‘China Daily’.
“The joint patrols between the United States and the Philippines in the South China Sea has led to militarisation in the region, which is harmful to regional peace and stability,” said a statement of the Chinese Defence Ministry. The statement came after the US said yesterday it had launched joint South China Sea patrols with the Philippines and that 275 troops and five attack aircraft will remain in the Philippines temporarily.
US Defence Secretary Ash Carter confirmed in Manila yesterday that the US and the Philippines had already conducted such patrols.
“The Chinese military will pay close attention to the situation, and resolutely defend China’s territorial sovereignty and maritime interests,” the statement said.
The ministry said the US and the Philippines’ were strengthening military alliance, increasing frontline military deployment and holding joint military drills with specific targets reflected cold-war mentality and it went against peace and stability in the South China Sea.
“We urge the parties concerned to sincerely respect the regional countries’ efforts to maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea,” it said.
Beijing will follow developments, and general stability has been maintained in the South China Sea “through joint efforts by China and relevant countries”, the ministry officials told the daily.
Reporting on the US-Philippines joint patrols, Global Times said the “US moves to include India and Philippines in mini NATO”.
The US moves around the South China Sea show that it wants to include India and the Philippines into its mini-NATO framework in the Asia-Pacific region, Liu Feng, a Hainan-based expert on the South China Sea, told the ‘Global Times’.
China’s claims of almost all of South China Sea is disputed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan. The Philippines has taken the disputed UN Convention on the Law of Seas, (UNCLOS). The tribunal proceedings were boycotted by China.
Zhang Junshe, a senior researcher at the PLA Naval Military Studies Research Institute, said the US will damage peace in the South China Sea by calling for joint patrols.
“When Washington calls China’s behaviour in the South China Sea ‘coercive’, the joint patrols have been a slap in the face. This is sheer coercion against China’s peaceful development,” Zhang told China Daily.
Carter reported the US confirmation at a news conference with Philippines Defence Secretary Voltaire Gazmin in Manila. Reports said the first joint patrol took place in March and a second one took place earlier this month.
Carter said the US forces will be given access to more military bases in the Philippines than the five announced already. “The US Army has now returned, has reinforced its military presence in the Philippines and has given rise to militarisation in the South China Sea region,” said China’s Ministry of National Defence.
Strengthening security operations of the US and the Philippines is a reflection of the Cold War mentality that will promote regional militarisation, which will affect the regional stability of the South China Sea, it said.
“We urge related parties not to target a third party or affect its interests when carrying out bilateral military cooperation,” the ministry’s press office has been quoted as saying by the state-run ‘Global Times’.
China’s military will be highly focused on related issues and pledge to safeguard national sovereignty rights and rights in the ocean, the ministry added.
Carter’s visit to the Philippines comes after a three-day visit to India, during which the two countries decided to reach military logistics supply agreement to get access to each other’s bases.
Parrikar and Carter, however, made it clear that the agreement, which will be signed in “weeks” or “coming months”, does not entail deployment of American troops on Indian soil.
China reacted cautiously to the announcement, saying that India as an influential country pursued independent foreign policy while hinting that it may raise the issue during next week’s visit here of Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar.
“We have to recognise that the US sees China as a strategic rival and make preparations accordingly in fields such as diplomatic strategy and military defense,” Chen said, adding that China should avoid military conflicts with the US but be open to dialogue on maritime affairs.
Liu added that China should maintain its stance on solving the South China Sea issue through consultations and negotiations, supported by countries such as Russia and Fiji.
Earlier, Chinese ministry summoned envoys of G7 foreign ministers and protest over a statement in Hiroshima, expressing concerns over the situations in the East and South China Seas.