MANILA - Canada on Thursday joined other nations in calling out China for its recent incursions in the West Philippine Sea, saying the actions of the world's second largest economy "undermine regional stability."
"Canada opposes recent Chinese actions in the South China Sea, including off the coast of the Philippines, that escalate tensions and undermine regional stability and the rules-based international order," Canadian Ambassador to the Philippines Peter MacArthur said in a tweet.
MacArthur's statement comes days after 220 Chinese ships were spotted moored near the Julian Felipe Reef ((Whitsun Reef) inside the Philippines' Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and Continental Shelf (CS).
Earlier this week, the United States, Japan, Australia and the United Kingdom also criticized China's recent action which retired Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio warned may be a prelude to occupation and building of a naval base as it did to Mischief Reef in 1995.
"The [People’s Republic of China] uses maritime militia to intimidate, provoke, and threaten other nations, which undermines peace and security in the region… We share the concerns of our Philippine allies," the US Embassy had said in a statement.
"We stand with the Philippines, our oldest treaty ally in Asia," it added.
The Chinese Embassy in the Philippines said the US is "not a party to the South China Sea issue."
But "the South China Sea issues are directly related to peace and stability and a concern for all," said Japanese Amb. Kazuhiko Koshikawa, that is why his country "strongly opposes any action that heightens tensions."
"We support the enforcement of rule of law in the sea," Koshikawa added.
An international arbitration court invalidated in 2016 China's sweeping claims in the South China Sea. In 2002, China also signed the Declaration on the Conduct (DOC) of Parties in the South China Sea with the Association of the Southeast Asian Nations that included a provision on exercising "self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability."
In a tweet, Nigel Adams, UK's Minister for Asia and the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, said he shared with Philippine Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr. his country's concern on "the South China Sea, including actions which raise tensions there."
The Chinese Embassy in Manila, in a statement on Monday, denied allegations the vessels are part of Beijing's militia, describing them as fishing vessels taking shelter due to “rough sea conditions.” It also said the reef is part of their territory.
China has been constructing military bases and asserting power in the South China Sea, a strategic waterway where about $3 billion in goods pass annually.
The Philippines has filed a diplomatic protest over the presence of the ships as it demanded for their withdrawal. On Thursday, the country's military said its chief has ordered the deployment of additional Navy ships in the West Philippine Sea to beef up maritime sovereignty patrols.
- with reports from Katrina Domingo and Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News