BEIJING – A look at recent developments in the South China Sea, where China is pitted against smaller neighbors in multiple territorial disputes over islands, coral reefs and lagoons. The waters are a major shipping route for world trade and are rich in fish and potential oil and gas reserves.
PHILIPPINES WAVERS ON ARBITRATION SETTLEMENT
The South China Sea remained a point of contention during last week’s talks between China and the Philippines, with Manila issuing harsh words before withdrawing them without explanation.
The Philippine defense chief said his country would adhere without any possibility of compromise to a 2016 international arbitration ruling that invalidated most of China’s sweeping claims in the South China Sea.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana made the remark to his Chinese counterpart on Friday, according to a statement from the Philippines about the meeting. However, the statement was withdrawn soon after and the disputed comment was deleted.
The incident underscores the central role of the South China Seas as a point of contention. China retains overwhelming economic and military advantages over the Philippines.
China refused to participate in arbitration by a UN-backed tribunal. He dismissed his decision as a sham and continues to challenge it. Chinese General Wei Fenghe’s visit follows a series of protests by the Philippines against increasingly aggressive actions by China in the busy waterway.
TAIWAN SAYS CHINA WAR GAMES ARE BIG THREAT
Taiwan claims Chinese fighter jets entered its airspace in the South China Sea on Wednesday and Thursday in large-scale war games that it called a serious provocation to the autonomous island and a serious threat to the regional peace and stability.
Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry said Thursday its military is fully aware of China’s actions and is responding effectively, without giving details. The war games are said to have taken place in the airspace between the main island of Taiwans and the Taiwan-controlled Pratas island group to the south.
China claims the autonomous democracy of 23 million people is its own territory and has stepped up its threat to bring the island under its control through military force with frequent war games and air patrols.
Taiwan said such actions by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army threatened the entire region and urged the international community to respond.
Today, the PLA has chosen to conduct exercises near Taiwan; tomorrow it could engage in similar threats near other countries, the ministry said in a statement.
Some island commentators have called the exercises the most serious military threat to Taiwan since 1996, when China staged war games and launched missiles into waters near the island in the hope of intimidating them. voters in Taiwan’s first direct presidential election.
China cut off contacts with the Taiwanese government following the 2016 election of independent president Tsai Ing-wen, who was re-elected this year, and sought to diplomatically isolate him while increasing political, military pressure. and economic.
WANG IN CHINA CALLS US MOST DANGEROUS REGIONAL THREAT
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi hit back at US accusations of China’s actions in the South China Sea, saying it was in fact Washington that was the biggest driver of militarization and the most dangerous factor for peace in the region.
Speaking to a meeting of East Asian foreign ministers via video link on Wednesday, Wang accused the United States of creating friction between China and countries bordering the South China Sea, and of thwart China’s attempts to negotiate disputes with the 10-member Southeast Association. Asian Nations.
Wang said the United States sent nearly 3,000 military aircraft sorties and more than 60 warships to the strategically vital waterway during the first half of the year.
While reaching out to regional governments and espousing Beijing’s desire for peace and stability, Wang also defined China’s claim to virtually all of the South China Sea, saying its claims to sovereignty were based on a sufficient historical and legal basis.
Under the aegis of aggressive foreign policy and fierce competition from Chief Xi Jinpings for fish stocks, oil, and other resources, China has had limited success in convincing states in the region that it is, and not the United States, the most reliable partner in maintaining peace and stability in the region.
Associated Press writer Jim Gomez in Manila, Philippines, contributed to this report.
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