Be ready for 'counterstrike,' PH warned by China media

MANILA, Philippines (Updated) - The Philippines should brace itself for a possible "counterstrike" should Beijing continue to be provoked in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea).

The warning was contained in a front-page commentary published Saturday in the state-owned People's Daily.

"If the Philippines continues to provoke China... a counterstrike will be hard to avoid," the editorial said.

The overseas edition of the People's Daily slammed the Philippines for committing "seven sins" in the South China Sea. These include the supposed illegal occupation of the Spratly islands, inviting foreign capital to engage in oil ang gas development, and internationalizing the disputed waters, a report that appeared in the South China Morning Post said. 

The comments come a day before an Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) meeting in Brunei, where ministers from member-countries will attempt to forge a legally binding "code of conduct" on the West Philippine Sea. 

People's Daily called out ASEAN for becoming an "accomplice" and also criticized the Philippines for calling on the United States to act as a "patron," according to the report. 

Members of the military are presently holding war games with the United States near the Scarborough Shoal.

In a joint press conference with visiting Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera on Friday, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said the government wants to give the United States and Japan more access to military bases.

Stirring up trouble

China slammed the plans. In an article published in People's Daily on Friday, China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying was quoted as saying that China is "glad" to see other countries develop relations but is opposed to "relevant countries' moves to form factions, stir up trouble, deliberately play up tensions in the region and mislead international opinion."

In another People's Daily report, Chen Qinghong, a Chinese expert on Philippine Studies, acccused the Philippines of using its US ties to strengthen its military force. 

"The Philippines hopes to seek more support from the US to balance China's increasing power in the region, so that it is sufficiently emboldened to bargain with China on the South China Sea issue," Chen said.  

Amid concerns that the war games could provoke China, Philippine Navy spokesman Lieutenant Commander Gregory Fabic earlier said the exercises are not targeted against the Chinese and will instead focus on inter-operability.

Aside from China and the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, and Vietnam have also posted their respective claims on the disputed territory. - with Agence France-Presse