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‘US Driving Wedge Between China, PH’

THE Chinese embassy in the Philippines on Sunday said it sees “no problem” with the Philippines over freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, but accused the United States of using the issue to drive a wedge between Manila and Beijing.

The embassy issued the statement in reaction to the remarks of US Ambassador to Manila MaryKay Carlson in a television interview on the South China Sea dispute and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the Philippines and the US.

Carlson had said US-Philippine joint patrols in the waterways are important to ensure that it remains free and open to international navigation.

“On the South China Sea issue, there is ‘no problem’ of freedom of navigation in the South China Sea,” the embassy said.

“When talking about free and open waterways, what the US has in its mind is actually the ‘freedom of rampage’ of its warships in the South China Sea,” it said.

The US has been sending its warships on “freedom of navigation” sorties in the South China Sea, which China claims is part of its territory.

The embassy pointed out that the US military “has been coming all the way from the other side of the Pacific to stir up trouble in the South China Sea and ganging up with its allies from other parts of the world to flex muscle in the South China Sea.” “By doing these, the US has not only heightened tension, driven a wedge between China and the Philippines, but also has disturbed and upset the joint effort of countries in this region to safeguard peace and stability in the South China Sea,” the embassy said.

Now that China and the Philippines are at a critical juncture of post-Covid 19 recovery, “we should keep to the right track of maintaining good-neighborliness and attaining mutual benefit rather than getting distracted by forces who are fanning the flame and driving a wedge between us, even less inviting a bully into our community,” it added.

“We need to focus on cooperation and development, and truly safeguard, promote and build peace, stability, prosperity of our region and bring more tangible benefits to people of our two countries,” the embassy said.

Carlson said the EDCA sites, where the US can store arms and equipment, would not only help the provincial and local authorities to enhance their ability to defend themselves, but to grow their economy.

The governors from Cagayan and Isabela expressed apprehension about having their provinces used as EDCA sites, fearing that the sites could become military targets if the conflict between China and Taiwan escalates further.

The Chinese embassy noted that “intense debates” have been going on recently in the Philippines about the four additional EDCA sites. “The governors of Cagayan and Isabela are not the only ones who publicly expressed reservation to having their provinces used as EDCA sites,” it said.

Peace and development, the embassy said, remain the theme of this era and the call of peoples around the world.

It accused the US of “keeping on upgrading” military cooperation with the Philippines by adding EDCA bases and military deployment in the country “to secure its hegemony and selfish geopolitical interests and out of the cold-war mentality.” “Whereas the US claims that such cooperation is intended to help the disaster relief efforts of the Philippines and some Americans even tout the EDCA sites as driver of local economy, it is plain and simple that those moves are part of the US efforts to encircle and contain China through its military alliance with this country,” the embassy said.

“To bundle the Philippines into the chariots of geopolitical strife will seriously harm Philippine national interests and endanger regional peace and stability,” it said.

Source: Manila Times