Manila (Philippines) (AFP) On Saturday, the Philippine Defense Secretary renewed his demand for dozens of Chinese ships to leave the reefs and claim Manila in the South China Sea, saying he would not be fooled by Chinese assurances that the ships had boarded. they. Shelter from bad weather.
The Chinese embassy responded to what it described as the “confusing statement” of Defense Minister Delphine Lorenzana, asserting that ships have the right to take shelter in what it said was Chinese territory. “No one has the right to make defamatory statements about such activities,” she said.
The unusually hostile public exchange arose from the Philippine Coast Guard’s sighting early last month of more than 200 Chinese ships, which Lorenzana called “militia”, at Whitson Reef. The Philippines lodged a diplomatic protest, saying that the coral reefs, mentioned by Julian Philip, are located in an internationally recognized marine area, where they have the exclusive right to exploit fishing, oil, gas and other resources.
China has ignored Manila’s demand for Chinese ships to leave the area it calls Niue Jiao, claiming it is Chinese territory. The Chinese embassy in Manila said the ships were protected in the reefs from sea waves.
“The Chinese ambassador has a lot of clarity to offer,” Lorenzana said in a statement on Saturday, adding that the latest Philippine military surveillance revealed that 44 Chinese ships were still anchored in the coral reefs.
‘I am not crazy. The weather has been fine so far so they have no other reason to stay there. Lorenzana said Saturday that these ships have to be on their way.
The Chinese embassy responded again by repeating that the ships were hiding in what it called Chinese waters.
“It is completely natural for Chinese fishing boats to fish in the waters and take shelter near coral reefs during rough sea conditions,” the embassy said.
“We hope that the concerned authorities will make constructive efforts and avoid unprofessional statements that may increase irrational feelings,” the embassy said. “China is committed to maintaining peace and stability in its waters,” she added.
Whitsun Reef is located in Spratly, the most contested area in the South China Sea. The Philippines is a chain of resource-rich islands, islets, and atolls that make up the western province of Palawan. But China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei claim all or part of the marine area. China has turned seven disputed coral reefs into missile-protected island bases in recent years, adding to tensions.
The United States expressed its support to the Philippines, its long-standing ally in the treaty, and accused China of “using maritime militias to intimidate, provoke and threaten other countries, thus undermining peace and security in the region.” Beijing denied the ships were part of a naval militia.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has strengthened friendly relations with Beijing since taking office in 2016 and has been criticized for not promptly demanding China comply with an international arbitration award denying Beijing’s historic claims to abolish almost the entire South China Sea. China has refused to acknowledge the 2016 decision, calling it a “disgrace,” and continues to challenge it.