MANILA – Tensions in the South China Sea between China and its Southeast Asian neighbors are “really uncalled for”, a Chinese foreign ministry official said on Thursday.
China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning claimed during a press conference that there was “never any issue with freedom of navigation and safety” in the disputed waters.
“China and ASEAN countries are committed to the full and effective implementation of the DOC (declaration on the conduct) and steady progress in COC (code of conduct) consultations. We have both the will and the capability to safeguard peace and stability in the South China Sea,” she told reporters.
“There is no need for unwanted interference by forces outside the region,” Mao added, seemingly referencing the United States.
Earlier, Filipino officials announced that US troops will be able to use four more bases in the country under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA). This development came amid China’s growing assertiveness over Taiwan, which is self-governed.
The US has vowed it will protect the Philippines in case of invasion.
Mao questioned the Americans’ expanded access to Philippine military bases, at least two of which are near Taiwan.
“Will increased US military deployment in one’s country or the region truly help protect sovereignty and security as well as regional peace and stability or rather cause grave irreparable consequences? Regional countries need to think carefully about this,” she said.
Mao said some Filipinos worry about the Philippines being drawn into a likely armed conflict due to the Philippines’ proximity with Taiwan.
“We hope regional countries could see clearly who is fueling tensions across the Taiwan Strait for what purpose and will not pull someone else’s chestnuts out of fire at their own expense,” she said.
An analyst on Wednesday assailed China’s condemnation of US troops using four more bases in the Philippines under EDCA, saying Beijing’s reaction reeks of “hypocrisy” and “double standard”.
De La Salle University international studies professor Renato De Castro it was not the US that triggered the tension in the South China Sea.
“It’s China’s maritime expansion,” he said.
China has militarized islands in the disputed waters. Incidents of harassment of Chinese ships towards Filipino vessels and fishermen are also frequent.
Source : ABSCBN