China to Philippines: Stop 'Complicating' Situation in Disputed Waters

Respect Chinese 'sovereignty,' says foreign ministry.
Photo/s: Ted Aljibe, Agence France-Presse

China said the Philippines should stop "complicating" the situation in disputed waters as it insisted sovereignty over islands that are within Manila's exclusive economic zone.

The spokesman of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Wang Wenbin, issued the statement in response to a question about Philippine Coast Guard drills in the West Philippine Sea, where China has maintained fishing and militia vessels on top of artificial islands on reefs within the Philippines EEZ.

China "enjoys sovereignty over Nansha Islands including Zhongye Island and Zhongsha Islands including Huangyan Island and their adjacent waters, and exercises jurisdiction in relevant waters."

He was referring to China's name for the Kalayaan Group of Islands or Spratlys. Beijing has insisted on its claim despite losing to Manila before the UN-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration. China's historical claim based on its so-called nine-dash line map is invalid, the court said.

"We urge the relevant side to respect China's sovereignty and rights and interests, and stop actions complicating the situation and escalating disputes," Wang told reporters.

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Tensions between Manila and Beijing flared up in early April after the Filipino military spotted dozens of Chinese militia and fishing vessels off Julian Felipe (Whitsun) reef.

China has refused to pull out its ships despite daily diplomatic protests and summons on its ambassador to Manila.

China is claiming almost the entire South China Sea, overlapping with claims by the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Taiwan and Malaysia. Some $3.4 million worth of trade passes through the disputed waters annually and Washington has expressed concern over Beijing's actions in the region.

The Chinese government also refuses to recognize a UN court's ruling that favored the Philippines and invalidated its vast claims.

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