MANILA, Philippines – Despite criticism from Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, China asserted its right to warn certain planes flying over the South China Sea, Reuters reported on Thursday, August 16.
The Chinese foreign ministry, in a statement sent to Reuters, asserted that the disputed Spratly Islands remain Chinese territory. China said it respects other countries’ freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea, according to Reuters.
“But China has a right to take necessary steps to respond to foreign aircraft and ships that deliberately get close to or make incursions into the air and waters near China’s relevant islands, and provocative actions that threaten the security of Chinese personnel stationed there,” the Chinese foreign ministry said.
“China urges the relevant party to meet China halfway, and jointly protect the present good situation that has not come easily in the South China Sea,” it added, with Reuters saying China “rebuffed” Duterte.
In a rare criticism of China, Duterte on Tuesday, August 14, said China should “temper” its frequent warnings to planes and ships traversing the South China Sea. The Philippines claims part of these waters as the West Philippine Sea.
“You cannot create an island and you say that the air above the artificial island is your own. That is wrong. The right to innocent passage is guaranteed,” Duterte said.
CNN and the Associated Press earlier reported how China radioed warnings against US and Philippine planes flying over the South China Sea.
Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano on Wednesday, August 15, downplayed Duterte’s recent remarks about China. “In fact, I interpret it as even a closer relationship because the closer you are, the more you can tell each other your feelings.”
Other countries have voiced concern about China’s behavior in the South China Sea.
While taking no sides on the dispute, the United Kingdom and Australia said: “We oppose impediments to the freedom of navigation and overflight. We urge against actions likely to raise tensions, including militarization.” The two countries also stressed that the 2016 Hague ruling on the South China Sea is “binding” on both the Philippines and China. – Rappler.com
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