US only after own interest in denying China access to disputed seas

Arriane Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 13 2017 10:02 PM

MANILA - The United States of America is only promoting its national interest when it says that it will deny China access to islands in the disputed South China Sea, Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay said Friday.

During his confirmation hearing, US Secretary of State-designate Rex Tillerson said China’s building of islands in the South China Sea was "akin to Russia's taking Crimea" and that they are going to send Beijing a “clear signal” to stop the building of islands and access to such islands will not be allowed.

“Well that is a statement made by America and they have the force to prevent China in this respect. They have problems or issues with China they will deal with that but for all purposes we have also made it clear that we have our exclusive economic zone, our arbitral tribunal decision,” Yasay said in a phone interview on ANC’s “Top Story.”

Yasay explained that the US was making the statement in a different context to promote their concerns and interest in the area.

“When America will be doing that they will be doing so to promote their national interest,” he said.

“They say it in a different context about their concern and interest in this area. When they say that they will prevent China from doing or undertaking this activity… If they want to do that, they have the force to do so, let them do it,” he added.

President Rodrigo Duterte has previously said that he will set aside the implementation of the arbitral ruling on the South China Sea as he pivots towards a closer relationship with Beijing.

During his visit to China last year, Duterte announced his separation from the US and declared the triumvirate of Philippines, Russia and China against the US.

Yasay said that the Philippines at the moment is ensuring that Beijing will be engaged in bilateral negotiations on how to implement the arbitral tribunal ruling.

He also clarified that the Philippines is working to build a “close friendship” with everyone and that a closer friendship to a specific country does not equate to an eroding friendship with another.

“Closer friendship with Japan does not mean eroding your friendship with China in the same manner that a closer friendship with China will not erode our friendship with Japan or the United States. We will be friends with everybody. And we will be friends to the extent that our mutual interests are conversed and we will work for this mutual interest for our mutual benefit,” he said.

Yasay however also emphasized the importance of building a closer relationship not just with the US, but with other countries as well.

"We should strengthen our relationship with the United States. We should strengthen our relationship with everyone. This will create the kind balance that is conducive to the peace and prosperity and stability in this region," he said.