US-Philippines patrols in South China Sea irk Beijing

15 April 2016

China on Friday voiced ''resolute opposition'' to the US-Philippines joint patrols in the South China Sea, saying the ''harmful'' move would flare regional contradictions and damage peace and stability in the disputed territory.

The Chinese foreign ministry spelled out China's stance after the Pentagon said that the US-Philippines joint patrols in the SCS ''will occur regularly''. The ministry said China expressed ''resolute opposition against infringement of China's sovereignty and security by any country in any form.''

The foreign ministry told state-run China Daily, ''The military exchanges ...  should not target a third party, not to mention supporting some countries to provoke China's sovereignty and security, flaring regional contradictions and damaging regional peace and stability.''

''The joint patrols between the United States and the Philippines in the SCS have led to militarisation in the region, which is harmful to regional peace and stability,'' said a statement of the Chinese defence ministry.

The statement came after the US said on Thursday it had launched joint SCS patrols with the Philippines, and that 275 troops and five attack aircraft would remain in the Philippines temporarily.

Carter's confirmation
US Defence Secretary Ash Carter confirmed in Manila on Thursday that the US and the Philippines had already conducted such patrols.

''The Chinese military will pay close attention to the situation, and resolutely defend China's territorial sovereignty and maritime interests,'' the statement said.

The ministry said the US and the Philippines' were strengthening military alliance, increasing frontline military deployment and holding joint military drills with specific targets reflected ''Cold War mentality'' and it went against peace and stability in the SCS.

''We urge the parties concerned to sincerely respect the regional countries' efforts to maintain peace and stability in the SCS,'' it said.

Beijing would follow developments, and general stability had been maintained in the SCS ''through joint efforts by China and relevant countries'', the ministry officials told the daily.

Involving India?
Reporting on the US-Philippines joint patrols, Chinese English daily Global Times said the ''US moves to include India and Philippines in mini-NATO''.

''The US moves around the SCS show that it wants to include India and the Philippines in its mini-NATO framework in the Asia-Pacific region,'' Liu Feng, a Hainan-based expert on the SCS, told the Global Times.

China's claim of almost all of SCS is disputed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan. The Philippines has taken the dispute to the UN Convention on the Law of Seas, (UNCLOS). The tribunal proceedings were boycotted by China.

Reports said the first joint patrol took place in March and a second one took place earlier this month.

Carter has said the US forces will be given access to more military bases in the Philippines than the five announced already.

''The US Army has now returned, has reinforced its military presence in the Philippines and has given rise to militarisation in the SCS region,'' said China's ministry of national defence.

''We urge related parties not to target a third party or affect its interests when carrying out bilateral military cooperation,'' the ministry's press office has been quoted as saying by the state-run Global Times.

Carter's visit to the Philippines comes after a three-day visit to India, during which the two countries decided to reach military logistics supply agreement to get access to each other's bases.

Defence minister Manohar Parrikar and Carter, however, made it clear that the agreement, which ''will be signed in weeks'' or ''coming months'', did not entail deployment of American troops on Indian soil.

China reacted cautiously to the announcement, saying that India as an influential country pursued independent foreign policy while hinting that it may raise the issue during next week's visit here of Parrikar.

Liu added that China should maintain its stance on solving the SCS issue through consultations and negotiations, supported by countries such as Russia and Fiji.

Earlier, the Chinese ministry summoned envoys of G7 foreign ministers and lodged a protest over a statement in Hiroshima expressing concerns over the situations in the East and South China Seas.

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