MANILA, Philippines - Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario lashed out at China for its “grossly irresponsible” warning on other claimants of islands in the South China Sea to “prepare for the sounds of cannons,” pointedly stating the warning violates the agreed rules-based solutions to regional disputes.
The Philippines is planning to elevate its claim to parts of the South China Sea to the Hamburg-based International Tribunal on the Laws of the Sea but Beijing refused to be a party to the case.
China’s warning of military action against claimant countries—of the oil-rich Spratlys group and the Paracels that includes the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan—was published in The Global Times newspaper, which has closed links to the ruling Chinese Communist Party.
The published article said “military action” may be needed if the “situation turns ugly” in the East China Sea and the South China Sea.
“It sounds like a grossly irresponsible sabre-rattling statement in contrast with the Philippines position which seeks an Unclos (United Nations Convention on the Laws of the Sea) rules- based solution to the West Philippine Sea issue,” said del Rosario in a text message to journalists on Wednesday reacting to China’s statement.
The Philippines has proposed to segregate disputed parts of the South China Sea from the undisputed areas, to demilitarize the disputed areas, and to establish a zone of peace, freedom and development.
The initiative allows claimant countries to cooperate in marine research and exploration. The initiative, which the Philippines believes is in line with Unclos, is pending adoption at the coming leaders meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).
China and Asean have agreed to adopt a legally binding Code of Conduct in the South China Sea that prevents military intrusions in the disputed areas.
China’s warning came amid recent tensions in the disputed region after the Philippines last week seized 25 small Chinese boats after its navy confronted a larger fishing vessel in the South China Sea.
“If these countries don’t want to change their ways with China, they will need to prepare for the sounds of cannons,” said the strongly worded editorial published in both the English and Chinese editions of the newspaper.
“We need to be ready for that as it may be the only way for the disputes in the seas to be resolved.”
The Global Times is owned by The People’s Daily, a known mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party.