Japan, US vow continued support for PHL peace efforts
WASHINGTON — U.S. President Barack Obama has criticized China for its activities in the South China Sea to claim a number of disputed islands by using force, drawing sharp reaction from Beijing.
“We think this can be solved diplomatically, but just because the Philippines or Vietnam are not as large as China doesn’t mean that they can just be elbowed aside,” Obama told a town-hall meeting with citizens in Kingston, Jamaica last week.
During his two-day visit in Manila, President Obama had vowed support to the Philippines under the US-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty.
Obama witnessed the signing of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between Manila and Washington during his Manila visit.
Obama said his administration is “concerned” with China as it is “not necessarily abiding by international norms and rules and is using its size and muscle to force countries into subordinate positions.”
Mr. Obama’s comments came as the US warned that Chinese efforts to enlarge and build up disputed islands in the South China Sea are a threat to regional stability.
A newly released set of satellite images revealed that China is artificially expanding a reef in disputed waters, presumably to strengthen its territorial claims.
“In our view, China’s land reclamation and the construction activity are fueling greater anxiety within the region,” State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke told reporters.
Rathke said Washington is concerned that China “might militarize outposts on disputed land features of the South China Sea.
“So we are watching these developments closely and we continue to raise our concerns with China as well as with others in the region to urge all parties to avoid destabilizing activities.”
Malacanang immediately hailed President Obama’s statements expressing concern over China’s bullying of the Philippines in the dispute in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
“You know the country’s position, when it comes to this maritime dispute in the West Philippine Sea, as you can see, has received broad international support,” deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said.
Valte reiterated that the Aquino administration is resolved to follow the peaceful track.
“We have committed to pursuing our cause through recognized fora, and that we continue to adopt the rules-based approach; meaning, susundan natin ‘yung mga paraan na inilalatag, nasa ilalim ng international law, para ipaglaban ‘yung para sa atin and you can see it. This support is manifested in so many ways by members of the global community,” Valte said.
Obama had said Washington is concerned China is using its “sheer size and muscle” to push around smaller nations in the South China Sea, drawing a swift rebuke from Beijing which accused the United States of being the bully.
“Where we get concerned with China is where it is not necessarily abiding by international norms and rules and is using its sheer size and muscle to force countries into subordinate positions,” Obama told a town-hall event in Jamaica on Thursday ahead of a Caribbean summit in Panama.
“We think this can be solved diplomatically, but just because the Philippines or Vietnam are not as large as China doesn’t mean that they can just be elbowed aside,” he said.
For her part, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said the United States had no right to accuse anyone of pushing anyone else around.
Valte, however, gave a cold shoulder to proposals to pursue the Philippin territorial dispute with China via a multilateral accord.
“Multilateral would involve other parties. In any case, we are committed to sticking to the path that government has decided to take. So, again, we are exhausting… we are taking the diplomatic track, we are taking the legal track to address our issue in this particular case,” Valte said.
Valte later tossed to the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Defense department the task of addressing the issue of temporary base with the US via a rotational presence under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA). Authorities earlier claimed that Palawan is the ideal site near the Spratlys where the US can position its forces to thwart any bullying by China against the Philippines.
Valte said the Aquino government would pursue the adoption of peaceful means in its maritime dispute with China.
“We have adopted the peaceful track. We have committed to pursuing our cause through recognized fora, and that we continue to adopt the rules-based approach,” she said.
Valte said they would continue to follow all legal ways based on international law, and this, she pointed out, has attracted the support of other countries.
Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., meanwhile, has suggested that the Philippines enter a multilateral agreement with China among others to thresh out the issue.
Valte said any moves to address the issue with China would be through diplomatic ways.
“We are committed to sticking to the path that government has decided to take. So, again, we are exhausting… We are taking the diplomatic track, we are taking the legal track to address our issue in this particular case,” she said.