Visit of US defense chief to PH aims to create ‘chaos’ in region - Chinese envoy in Manila

Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 08 2020 05:56 PM

Visit of US defense chief to PH aims to create ‘chaos’ in region - Chinese envoy in Manila 1
(Left) Chinese Ambassador to Philippines Huang Xilian on Dec. 4, 2019. ABS-CBN News/File; (Right) Acting US. Defense Secretary Christopher Miller on Nov. 13, 2020. Tom Brenner, Reuters

MANILA — China’s ambassador to the Philippines on Tuesday said the visit of the acting US Secretary of Defense to Manila is aimed to create “chaos and confrontation in the region” in the last days of US President Donald Trump’s administration. 

Reacting to an article written by acting US Defense Secretary Christopher Miller on the eve of his visit to Asia, Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian turned the tables on the US and accused it of taking provocative actions to destabilize the South China Sea “to serve its own domestic politics and geopolitical agenda.”

Huang pointed out that the US has taken sides in the disputed area, describing it as blatant interference.

“Obviously, he has dressed up the US as a patron and judge of other sovereign countries. It is a living evidence showcasing that the purpose of his visit is not to promote regional peace and stability, but to create chaos and confrontation in the region to the last minute of the incumbent administration,” Huang said.

Miller, in his article titled “Rules (not might) make right in SCS,” reiterated the US position rejecting China’s claim in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone and called Beijing’s claims to offshore resources across most of the disputed area as “completely unlawful, as is its campaign of bullying to control them.”

A Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled in 2016 that China's claim over almost the entire South China Sea has no legal basis.

In his article “Truth is Truth to the End of Reckoning” in response to Miller's, Huang said the US violated its international commitments and obligations by refusing to join and respect the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) despite repeatedly invoking it.

Manila and Beijing are signatories, while Washington is not, to the 1982 UNCLOS, upon which the former anchored its decision to bring the South China Sea disputes to the arbitration court. China rejected the arbitration process and continues to disregard the landmark 2016 ruling.

“It is not surprising that the article is full of groundless accusations against China and colossal fallacies about the South China Sea as well as the regional situation,” Huang said of Miller's piece. 

The Chinese ambassador reiterated China’s preference to handle disputes through what his country calls as “friendly consultation and dialogue”, saying it “is the right way that best serves the interests of regional countries.”

He added that China respects international law, including UNCLOS. 

“The SCS is the shared home for the countries in the region, and it has served as an important conduit for trade, people-to-people exchanges and transportation of medical supplies during the pandemic. It should not be a wrestling ground for international politics,” Huang said. 

China, the envoy added, supports the “proper handling” of the issue “in accordance with universally-recognized principles of international law, UNCLOS and the Declaration of the Conduct (DOC) of Parties in SCS included.”

The US, with which the Philippines has a Mutual Defense Treaty, has been vocal in asserting freedom of navigation in the South China Sea — a critical waterway for global trade. It had also explicitly recognized the 2016 arbitral ruling which invalidated China’s expansive claim. 

China is asserting ownership over nearly all of the waters, while the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have partial claims.

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Envoy hits AMTI report, says increased patrols reports in S. China Sea ‘distorted’

Huang also dismissed the Asian Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) report that showed an increased number of patrols in the disputed sea during the pandemic, describing them as “distorted and biased reports” conducted by “a major US think-tank close to the State Department, Pentagon and Wall Street.”

WATCH: China increased patrols in disputed sea during pandemic: report | ANC

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China, according to him, is “firmly committed to the peace and stability” in the South China Sea. 

He said his country is prepared to “strengthen maritime cooperation with littoral countries, deepen mutual security confidence, and advance joint development of maritime resources while setting aside disputes, so as to make the South China Sea a sea of peace, friendship and cooperation.”

“The wise don’t buy rumors. Despite the groundless attacks in the article and distorted and biased reports in recent days by the AMTI..., China’s goodwill and staunch commitment to peace and stability in the SCS are crystal clear. Even high-ranking military officials of the Philippines have denied Chinese vessels conducting hostile activities,” Huang said.

In August, Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana hit China over its provocative actions, especially in areas within the Philippines' EEZ.

On the 4th anniversary of the arbitral award last July, Lorenzana urged China to “comply” with the landmark ruling, saying adherence to international law bodes well for stability in the region.

According to Huang, it is the US that “keeps increasing and showing off its military presence in the South China Sea” by sending “thousands of military planes, tens of warships and aircraft carriers to the SCS on numerous occasions for military provocations.”

CODE OF CONDUCT

The Chinese ambassador also accused the US of “seeking to drive a wedge between China and ASEAN countries, and disrupt the consultation process of the Code of Conduct (COC).”

“Facts have proved that the US is the biggest driver of the militarization of the SCS and the most dangerous external factor endangering the peace and stability of the SCS. All regional countries should be vigilant, and prevent the region’s hard-won peace and development from being sabotaged,” Huang said.

Incumbent and former Philippine officials have acknowledged that the United States has a right to exercise its freedoms of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea.

Huang pointed out that it is “ridiculous” for the US to accuse China of seeking to exploit the COVID-19 crisis by taking provocative steps in the disputed waters, saying that China has, on the contrary, “been assisting the regional countries to tide over the crisis by providing medical supplies, dispatching medical teams and sharing anti-pandemic experience.”

“We will continue to join hands with regional countries to fight against COVID-19 and bolster public health capacity, including cooperation on vaccine development, procurement and production. We would also like to enhance policy coordination for collective economic recovery, and advance practical cooperation and improve sustainable development capacity,” he said.

China vowed to work with ASEAN to fully and effectively implement the DOC and steadily advance COC consultations.
 
“It is impossible to achieve development and prosperity in the region without a peaceful and stable SCS. We will, as always, work with ASEAN countries to fully and effectively implement the DOC and steadily advance COC consultations,” he said.

“Thanks to the concerted efforts of regional countries, the COC consultations are proceeding smoothly and speedily, with the second reading of the text already begun. China and ASEAN countries have agreed to conclude the COC at an early date despite the negative impact of COVID-19, a goal we are confident and determined to achieve. No external interference can distract or sabotage our efforts.”

WATCH: Beijing using COVID-19 aid to prevent criticism in S. China Sea aggression: analyst | ANC

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