Rhetoric escalates in China-Philippines South China Sea dispute

Chinese state media warns the Philippines that ‘provocations’ in South China Sea are ‘extremely dangerous’.

This handout photo taken and released on December 10, 2023 by the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) shows the M/L Kalayaan chartered supply boat (R) being towed after a Chinese coast guard ship unleashed water cannon onto the vessel, during a mission to deliver provisions at Second Thomas Shoal in disputed waters of the South China Sea. - A Philippine boat was "rammed" by a Chinese coast guard ship during a resupply mission on December 10, the Philippine coast guard said, in the latest such confrontation in the disputed South China Sea. The Philippine Coast Guard also said a Chinese ship "water cannoned" three Philippine vessels involved in the resupply mission, causing "serious engine damage" to one of the boats. (Photo by Handout / Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / PHILIPPINE COAST GUARD (PCG)" - NO MARKETING - NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS - RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / PHILIPPINE COAST GUARD (PCG)" - NO MARKETING - NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS /
A supply boat is towed after a Chinese coastguard ship on December 10 fired water cannons onto the vessel, near Second Thomas Shoal in the South China Sea [Handout/Philippine Coast Guard via AFP]

Chinese state media has warned the Philippines against “causing trouble and chaos” in the South China Sea, as tensions continue to boil over the disputed waters.

State-controlled newspaper the People’s Daily issued the call in a commentary published on Monday, saying the Philippines has repeatedly infringed on China’s territory in the region and risked making a severe “miscalculation”.

The commentary singled out Philippine activities near Second Thomas Shoal, a resource-rich waterway that Manila occupies, but China claims as its own territory.

China’s People’s Daily blamed the United States for encouraging the Philippines’ “provocative” actions in the area, which it says “irresponsibly escalate regional tensions”.

“The Philippines relies on the support of external forces, ignores China’s goodwill and restraint, and repeatedly provokes China’s principles and bottom line,” said the editorial. Written under the pen name Zhong Sheng, or “Voice of China”, the column is often used to offer hardline views on foreign policy matters.

“This behaviour is extremely dangerous and has seriously harmed regional peace, stability, prosperity and development,” the piece reads.

The pointed remarks come amid months of tension as Beijing and Manila have traded accusations over a spate of run-ins in the sea.

In the latest incident on December 10, the Philippines accused China of ramming a supply boat that was carrying Manila’s chief of staff near Second Thomas Shoal.

The China Coast Guard, however, said the Philippine boat had “deliberately collided” with the Chinese vessel after “disregarding our multiple stern warnings”.

Beijing claims Second Thomas Shoal and almost the entire South China Sea on the basis of its “nine-dash line”.  The U-shaped marking featured on a new version of its national map earlier this year.

The map caused upset among Southeast Asian countries, including Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam, as it stakes Chinese claims to the waters lying close to their coasts.

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An international tribunal ruled as far back as 2016 that the map provided no legal basis for China’s claim, but Beijing has ignored that decision and continues to insist on the line’s legitimacy.

‘Act with caution’

In an unusually direct warning, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said last week any miscalculation in the dispute with the Philippines would bring a resolute response from China and called on Manila to “action with caution”.

The souring of bilateral ties coincides with Manila bolstering military relations with Japan and the United States, its former colonial power and defence ally of seven decades.

China expressed anger at the US this month for sending a navy ship into waters near the contested area.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies