China warns Philippines must ‘act with caution’ after clashes in South China Sea

 China warns Philippines must ‘act with caution’ after clashes in South China Sea

China has warned the Philippines that it “must act with caution”, Beijing’s foreign ministry said, following a string of incidents in the disputed South China Sea as Manila increasingly stands up to Chinese assertiveness in the region.

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Videos released by the Philippine Coast Guard showed Chinese ships blasting water cannon at Philippine boats this month and there was also a collision between vessels from the two countries during tense clashes at flashpoint reefs.

Wang Yi, China‘s top diplomat, said on a call with Philippine Foreign Minister Enrique Manalo on Wednesday the two countries were “facing serious difficulties”, blaming Manila for changing its policies, according to a readout.

“Wang Yi said China-Philippines relations are currently facing serious difficulties,” it said late on Wednesday.

“The root cause is that the Philippines has changed its longstanding policy stance, reneged on its own commitments, continued to provoke and stir trouble at sea, and undermined China’s legal rights.”

“China-Philippines relations are at a crossroads. Faced with the choice of where to go, the Philippines must act with caution,” the readout said.

China claims almost the entire South China Sea and has ignored an international tribunal ruling that its assertions have no legal basis.

It deploys boats to patrol the busy waterway and has built artificial islands that it has militarised to reinforce its claims.

Manalo described his call with Wang as “frank and candid”, according to a readout released by the Philippines foreign ministry on Thursday.

“We had a frank and candid exchange and ended our call with a clearer understanding of our respective positions on a number of issues,” the readout quoted Manalo as saying.

“We both noted the importance of dialogue in addressing these issues.”

Envoy summoned

The Philippines summoned China’s envoy on December 11 and flagged the possibility of expelling him following the latest clashes.

The videos released by the Philippines were of incidents during two separate resupply missions to fishermen at Scarborough Shoal and a tiny garrison at Second Thomas Shoal the previous weekend.

There was also a collision between Philippine and Chinese boats at Second Thomas Shoal, where a handful of Filipino troops are stationed on a grounded warship, with both countries trading blame.

Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos met Chinese leader Xi Jinping last month on the sidelines of an Asia-Pacific summit in San Francisco, where the pair discussed the maritime territorial disputes.

Marcos later told a forum in Hawaii the Philippines would not give up “a single square inch of our territory”.


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