MANILA, Philippines — The Chinese Embassy in Manila accused the United States on Tuesday of “provoking confrontation” after the latter backed the Philippines in its protest of Chinese vessels in the West Philippine Sea.
“The United States is not a party to the South China Sea issue. Fanning flames and provoking confrontation in the region will only serve the selfish interests of [an] individual country and undermine the regional peace and stability,” the Chinese embassy said over Twitter, tagging the official account of the U.S. Embassy in Manila.
China and the Philippines “are sovereign and independent countries,” the Chinese embassy added in a separate tweet.
“We have the will, wisdom and ability to properly handle relevant issues through bilateral channels,” it said.
The Philippines lodged a diplomatic protest on Sunday, March 21, against more than 200 boats, believed to be operated by Chinese maritime militia personnel, at the Julian Felipe Reef in the West Philippine Sea.
Following the protest, the Chinese embassy denied on Monday the alleged presence of Beijing’s maritime militia at the said reef, which China claimed to be part of its territory.
It, however, said that “some Chinese fishing vessels” have recently taken shelter at the reef “due to rough sea conditions.”
Earlier Tuesday, the US embassy said Chinese boats have been mooring in the area for “many months in ever-increasing numbers, regardless of the weather.”
Further, it accused China of using its maritime militia “to intimidate, provoke, and threaten other nations, which undermines peace and security in the region.”
The Philippines has already demanded that China immediately withdraw its fishing vessels and maritime assets from the West Philippine Sea.
Manila also called on China to “direct its fishing vessels to desist from environmentally destructive activities” in the area.
The Philippines, China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei all have overlapping claims over the South China Sea.
In July 2016, the Philippines won a landmark victory over China before the United Nations-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands, which invalidated China’s nine-dash line claim, a ruling that Beijing refuses to recognize.
Reporting by Albert Rovic Tan