MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – If there’s one word to describe the country that had the guts to take China to court, a feisty Chinese general said it is this: “troublemaker.”
The same thing goes for the Philippines’ ally, the United States, said Major General Luo Yan in an interview with reporters in Beijing on Thursday, July 4.
“The role of the Philippines in the South China Sea is actually, in my view, a troublemaker,” he said.
Luo also blasted the US as “biased.” He said Washington has “added fuel to the fire” by cooperating with Manila amid a maritime dispute over the South China Sea, which the Philippines calls West Philippine Sea.
The Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said in response, “We refuse to dignify the statements by the Chinese general.”
Describing himself as a “reasonable hardliner,” Luo is the deputy-director general of the world military research department at a People’s Liberation Army academy.
His articles appear prominently in state media and he has 320,000 followers on Sina Weibo, a popular Twitter-like microblogging site.
Luo’s heated statements came as the DFA, also on Thursday, invited Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to visit Manila.
Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario invited him after “testy exchanges” between them at the recent Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) forum in Brunei.
Del Rosario said he will not deny reports that he broke “diplomatic niceties” to defend the Philippines, but said what’s important is his invitation to Wang.
Del Rosario said he wants a “constructive discussion on all issues.”
“I indicated to him that perhaps it’s timely for him to do this, because I have been to Beijing 3 times since I became foreign minister and all throughout that time, we have had no visits from a Chinese foreign minister,” he explained.
China said it is open to discussing a peaceful resolution of South China Sea disputes. The Palace, for its part, said it is “a step in the right direction.”
In January, the Philippines decided to bring the territorial row before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, asking the tribunal to declare China’s claims as “invalid.”
China, on the other hand, formally rejected the arbitral proceedings initiated by the Philippines. – Paterno Esmaquel II, with reports from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com