Filipino defense secretary tells China to “prove” that it won’t take first shot in South China Sea
dpa, Hamburg, Germany
The Philippine defense secretary on Tuesday called on China to match its actions with its words in the South China Sea, after Beijing said it “will not take the first shot” in resolving the territorial row there.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said China has often assured the international community that it is committed to a peaceful settlement of the dispute in a bid to soothe tensions and concerns.
“They say they want peace in the South China Sea, but it does not match what they are doing on the ground,” he told reporters. “Until such time that their actions match the words, then what they are saying will be doubtful.”
China claims almost the entire South China Sea, a key shipping lane believed to be rich in marine and mineral resources, and has built artificial islands with military-capable facilities over disputed reefs and outcrops.
Alongside the Philippines, other countries with territorial claims there are Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.
“Since they started grabbing islands there, they are bullying people around,” Lorenzana said, referring to China. “So until such time that the behaviour of the Chinese will match their rhetoric, then the low trust of the Philippines will continue.”
Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua said Beijing was boosting its military to defend its country and protect its people, speaking in Manila late Monday.
“No matter how strong China may become, China will never seek hegemony or never establish spheres of influence,” Zhao said at a reception for the 92nd founding anniversary of China’s People’s Liberation Army.
“China adopts a military strategy of active defence which adheres to the principle of defence, self-defence and post-strike response. Meaning we will not take the first shot,” he added.
Zhao noted that it was in China’s best interest to maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea, through which nearly 75 per cent of its food exports and imports pass as well as 80 per cent of oil and gas imports.
“If freedom of navigation is disrupted or even blocked by someone in the South China Sea, it is going to be somewhat bad for China,” he added.
In July 2016, the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled Beijing had no legal or historical basis for its “Nine-Dash Line,” which demarcates its claims to almost the entire South China Sea.
Last week, a nationwide survey showed that Filipinos are increasingly distrustful of China following the sinking of a Filipino fishing boat in the South China Sea by a Chinese vessel that left without helping the 22 fishermen on the ill-fated boat.
According to the Manila-based Pulse Asia Research Inc, 74 per cent of 1,200 respondents said that the Philippines should not trust China “too much” or “at all,” up from 60 per cent in December.
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