China on Sunday hit back at the US for expanding military access in the Philippines, saying that Washington was trying to “encircle and contain” Beijing, and is “driving a wedge” between the two Asian nations.
The Chinese embassy said the US was moving to “secure its hegemony and selfish geopolitical interests.”
Involving the Philippines “will seriously harm” the nation’s interest and endanger regional peace and stability, the embassy said in a statement responding to a recent interview with the US ambassador in Manila.
The Philippines last month gave the US access to four more military bases under the countries’ Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, with some of the sites believed to be in provinces near Taiwan. The 2014 pact allows the US to rotate its troops for prolonged stays as well as build and operate facilities on Philippine bases.
“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,” the Chinese statement said. “By doing these, the US has not only heightened tension, driven wedge between China and Philippines, but has also disturbed and upset the joint effort of countries in this region to safeguard peace and stability in the South China Sea.”
Manila under Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr has been ramping up the rhetoric against Beijing on a territorial dispute. At the same time, it plans to restart patrols with the US in disputed waters and expand military exercises with US troops.
Marcos’ administration has filed at least 77 diplomatic protests against China over “alleged” contraventions in the South China Sea since it started in June last year. That was almost one-fifth of the 388 filings made by his predecessor, former Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte, who pivoted the Philippines’ foreign policy toward China during his six-year tenure.
“Now that China and the Philippines, among other countries of the region, are at a critical juncture of post-COVID 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,” China’s statement said.
The US has said its so-called “freedom of navigation operations” follow international law.
The Chinese embassy statement echoed Chinese President Xi Jinping’s (習近平) remarks last week, where he said Beijing is grappling with “comprehensive containment and suppression by Western countries led by the US.”
Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Qin Gang (秦剛) has also warned of moves to “contain and suppress China in all respects.”
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