With the Philippines’ arbitration bid progressing before the United Nations, Beijing has blasted Manila for its legal recourse to settle maritime disputes in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), and accused the Philippines of deviating from the agreed upon guidelines of discipline, as well as provoking tensions in the disputed waters.
In strongly worded remarks, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying scored the Philippines for its “indifference” to China’s position and charged Manila with discrediting Beijing before the international community.
“We are firmly opposed to the Philippines’ indifference to China’s lawful rights and interests and legitimate concerns as well as its willful act of pushing for international arbitration,” said Hua in a statement posted on the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s website on July 16.
“It is difficult for China to understand how the Philippines could continue to play up the issue of the South China Sea, distort the facts and smear China,” she added.
The five-member arbitral tribunal has just initiated proceedings on the Philippines’ case at The Hague, continuing despite China’s refusal to take part in the process.
China maintains vessels at the Second Thomas Shoal off Palawan and the Scarborough Shoal off Zambales, the site of a tense standoff between the two countries last year, despite repeated appeals from the Philippines for Beijing to respect the country’s exclusive economic zone.
But Beijing saw the Philippines’ moves as an act meant to taint China.
“It is difficult for China to understand how could the Philippines continue to play up the issue of the South China Sea, distort the facts and smear China,” said Hua.
“It is regrettable that over recent years, the Philippines has changed its attitude and approach in handling the issue, gone back on its consensus with China, broken its commitment in the DOC, cast aside the framework of dialogue upheld by a majority of countries, refused to cooperate, aggravated the situation and set off the incident of the Scarborough Shoal by harassing Chinese civilians with warships, casting a shadow over China-Philippine relations and peace and stability of the South China Sea,” Hua said.
Hua further blamed the Philippines for provoking tensions in the waters, scoring the country’s presence in parts of the Spratly Islands.
“The Philippines’ illegal occupation of some of the islands and reefs of China’s Spratly Islands is the direct cause to the South China Sea dispute between China and the Philippines. China sticks to the longstanding position of safeguarding national territorial sovereignty, which is totally legitimate,” said Hua.
She asserted Beijing’s commitment to regional peace and stability and its long-standing position of seeking bilateral negotiations to settle the international maritime dispute, which also involves claimants Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan.
On the contrary, the Philippines has long been seeking a multi-lateral approach, engaging venues like the Asean to take a unified approach in settling the dispute with China.
Since last year, the Philippines has filed a flurry of diplomatic protests to Chinese actions concerning the West Philippine Sea, including the establishment of a new city to administer almost all of the disputed territories, the stamping of maps bearing the questioned nine-dash line on new Chinese passports and the conduct of military drills and patrols in contested waters.