The Philippines’ foreign minister on Thursday denounced Chinese “duplicity” and “intimidation” in the South China Sea, souring the mood at a regional summit designed to soothe tensions.
“If Philippine sovereignty and jurisdiction can be denigrated by a powerful country through pressure, duplicity, intimidation and the threat of the use of force, the international community should be concerned about the behavior,” Albert del Rosario told the summit, according to an official statement.
He was referring to a recent standoff between Chinese and Philippine boats at a rocky outcrop called the Scarborough Shoal, which is claimed by both sides.
Del Rosario said Beijing’s increasingly assertive stance over disputed and non-disputed areas of the South China Sea posed a “threat to the peace and stability” in the Asia Pacific region.
“If left unchecked, the increasing tensions that is being generated in the process could further escalate into physical hostilities which no one wants,” he said at the Asean Regional Forum, which was also attended by Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
“This puts in greater jeopardy the remarkable economic dynamism of our region which was made possible by the relative peace and stability that prevailed in the past years.”
The dispute over Scarborough Shoal began after Chinese government vessels blocked Philippine ships from arresting Chinese fishermen near the shoal on April 10.
China claims nearly all of the South China Sea, even waters close to the coasts of neighboring countries. The Philippines says the shoal is well within its 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone.
The shoal sits about 230 kilometers (140 miles) from the Philippines’ main island of Luzon. The nearest major Chinese landmass is 1,200 kilometers northwest of the shoal, according to Philippine navy maps.