Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. on Friday warned China of the “severest response” – diplomatic and whatever else is appropriate – from Manila if it holds military exercises within Philippine territory in the South China Sea.
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“My first reaction was to check the coordinates in the Navigation Notice…The Chinese naval military exercises, if they stick to their coordinates, do not impinge on Philippine territory,” the country’s top diplomat said.
“These exercises are taking place in waters off Xisha Islands – the Paracels – over which Vietnam claims sovereignty. Should the exercises spill over to Philippine territory then China is forewarned that it will be met with the severest response, diplomatic and whatever else is appropriate,” he added.
Locsin’s strongly-worded statement came after China’s Maritime Safety Administration on June 27 issued Navigation Notice No. 00-69 on the conduct of military exercises by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army in the contested waters, particularly off Paracel Islands from July 1 to 5, and banning navigation in the area.
According to Locsin, the Philippines views “with interest and some concern” the said notice, which also states that “no vessel shall be allowed to navigate within the prescribed area and all vessels shall have to follow the guidance of the commanding Chinese ship on the site.”
On Thursday, the Pentagon said it was “concerned” about the Chinese military exercises, noting the maneuvers will “further destabilize” the region.
Such exercises also violate Beijing’s “commitments under the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea to avoid activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability,” Pentagon said in a statement.
The declaration, signed by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries, said that all parties would “avoid activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability.”
The exercises, Pentagon said, “are the latest in a long string” of Chinese actions “to assert unlawful maritime claims and disadvantage its Southeast Asian neighbors in the South China Sea.”
The Chinese exercises are taking place amid a rise in US-China tensions over the novel coronavirus epidemic, in which Washington has accused Beijing of hiding and downplaying the initial outbreak in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
Washington rejects Beijing’s territorial claim to much of the South China Sea, including the Paracels.
The region is believed to have valuable oil and gas deposits.
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