China stays open to dialogue, but pins ‘provocation’ on Philippines

China stays open to dialogue, but pins ‘provocation’ on Philippines

By John Victor D. Ordoñez, Reporter

CHINA moderated its tone towards the Philippines on Tuesday, expressing openness to dialogue over the two nations’ territorial disputes in the South China Sea after Philippine President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. said he would explore alternatives to resolving maritime issues.

“We stand ready to properly handle disputes through dialogue and consultation with the Philippines and will not close our door of dialogue and contact with the Philippines,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin told a news briefing.

However, Beijing continued to stick with its narrative that traced the cause of tensions to Manila’s supposed provocative stance.

“The recent events between China and the Philippines in the South China Sea are caused by deliberate infringement of China’s sovereignty and the provocations of the Philippines,” Mr. Wang said.

Speaking in Japan last Saturday, Mr. Marcos said his government plans to explore a “paradigm shift” in the way it deals with China amid its repeated incursions and swarming of South China Sea features closest to the Philippines.

He underscored how Beijing has ignored traditional diplomatic means initiated by the Philippines, including 132 diplomatic protests over the aggressive actions of Chinese vessels within the country’s exclusive economic zone since he became president in mid-2022.

As a result, the Philippines is looking to work with its global partners to come up with a joint position on safeguarding the South China Sea, he said.

But Mr. Wang stressed that maritime disputes between the Philippines and China do not represent the entirety of diplomatic relations between the states.

“We hope that the Philippines will make the right choice, seriously honor its commitment of properly handling disputes through dialogue and consultation and work with China to pursue the healthy and steady growth of bilateral ties and jointly safeguard peace and stability in the region,” he said.

The Philippine defense chief, however, rebuked China on Wednesday for accusing his country of provoking tension and stirring trouble in the South China Sea, saying only Beijing believed what it was saying.

“Truth and in fact, no country in the world, none, supports unequivocally their claim to the whole of South China Sea,” Defense Secretary Gilberto C. Teodoro, Jr. said as both nations have exchanged accusations over recent collisions in the waterway.

China has been blocking Philippine resupply missions to BRP Sierra Madre, the vintage warship grounded on Second Thomas Shoal, which is only 200 kilometers (km) west of Palawan Island and more than 1,000 km from China’s nearest major landmass, Hainan Island.

Tensions between the Philippines and China have worsened after the Chinese Coast Guard fired water cannons to block Manila’s attempt to deliver food and other supplies to troops stationed at BRP Sierra Madre.

In 2016, a United Nations-backed arbitration court based in The Hague said China’s claim to nearly the entire South China Sea has no legal basis, but Beijing has largely ignored the ruling.

China insists on its claims of almost the entire South China Sea, a conduit for more than $3 trillion of commercial shipping annually, including parts claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei. — with a report from Reuters