China responds to UK, Australia, Canada after getting flak over incursion in West PH Sea

Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 25 2021 08:59 PM | Updated as of Mar 25 2021 11:17 PM

Picture taken March 7, 2021. Philippine Coast Guard/National Task Force-West Philippine Sea via Reuters

MANILA - The Chinese Embassy in Manila on Thursday reacted to the criticisms Beijing received from diplomats of the United Kingdom, Australia, and Canada over its current incursion in the West Philippine Sea.

In a tweet, the embassy said the diplomats do not understand “basic facts” in coming up with “irresponsible comments, using the same scripts.”

“Neither these diplomats understand the basic facts, nor do they have the ability to think and judge independently. But they came out with irresponsible comments, using the same scripts.”

Around 200 Chinese vessels have been moored at the Julian Felipe Reef in the Philippines' exclusive economic zone since March 7, prompting a retired Philippine Supreme Court justice to warn of possible occupation and building of a naval base in the area as China did on the Mischief Reef, a feature also within Philippine territory, in 1995.

A 2016 landmark ruling by an international arbitration court invalidated China's sweeping claims over the South China Sea, of which the West Philippine Sea is a part.

China signed a 2002 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."

The Philippines has formally protested against the presence of the Chinese flotilla and demanded their withdrawal.

Canadian Ambassador to the Philippines Peter MacArthur said China's actions escalate tensions and undermine regional stability and the rules-based international order.”

Yesterday, Australian Ambassador to the Philippines Steven Robinson also expressed concern over “destabilising actions that could provoke escalation.”

“Australia supports an #IndoPacific region which is secure open and inclusive. The South China Sea – a crucial international waterway – is governed by international rules and norms, particularly UNCLOS. We remain concerned about destabilising actions that could provoke escalation,” Robinson said on Twitter.

The South China Sea was also a topic in the conversation Tuesday between Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr. and United Kingdom’s Minister for Asia at the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) Nigel Adams.

In a tweet, Adams said he shared UK’s concerns over “actions which raise tensions” in the South China Sea. 

“The Philippines is an important partner for the UK in the Indo-Pacific. Earlier I spoke to Secretary of Foreign Affairs @teddyboylocsin about our Integrated Review &our shared concerns on #Myanmar and the South China Sea, including actions which raise tensions there,” Adams said. 

Also on Twitter on Tuesday, Japanese Ambassador to Manila Kazuhiko Koshikawa the “South China Sea issues are directly related to peace & stability and a concern for all.”

“Japan strongly opposes any action that heightens tensions. We support the enforcement of #RuleOfLaw in the sea & work with the int'l community to protect the free, open, and peaceful seas,” Koshikawa said.

His remarks followed the assurance given by the United States that it stands with its oldest treaty ally in Asia.

Addressing Adams, Robinson and MacArthur, the Chinese embassy said, “If the so-called “facts” are false from the beginning, you couldn’t be more wrong to repeat the mistakes. Understand and respect the fact before you make any comments.”

In a statement last Monday, the Chinese embassy 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.

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