Exclusively: Philippine Defense Minister pledges to stand up to “bullying” China

Manila, Philippines

China He is acting like a schoolyard bully toward small nations, the Philippines’ defense chief told CNN on Friday during an exclusive interview in which he warned his country, and the wider world, must stand up to Beijing’s territorial expansionism in the region. South China Sea.

“I can think of no clearer case of bullying than this,” Philippine National Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. said. “It’s not a matter of stealing your lunch money, it’s actually a matter of stealing your lunch bag, your chair, even your school enrollment.”

His comments follow increasingly assertive moves before Philippines to protect its claim into the shallow waters of the South China Sea within more than a month High stakes marine drama.

While tensions between China and the Philippines over the hotly contested strategic waterway have simmered for years, confrontations have erupted. It rose this summerAnd renewed regional fears that a mistake or miscalculation at sea could lead to a broader conflict, including with China United State.

The region is widely seen as a potential flashpoint for a global conflagration, and the recent confrontations have raised concerns among Western observers that it could develop into an international incident if global power China decides to act more forcefully against the Philippines, a US treaty ally.

Recently Accidents It included confrontations between the Chinese Coast Guard, which Manila says is mysterious Chinese “maritime militia” boats Small wooden Filipino fishing boats and Chinese water hoses Prevent resupply From a sunken Philippine military base, and a lone Filipino diver crossing a path Chinese floating barrier.

Teodoro described the Philippines’ refusal to retreat in waters within its 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone as a fight for the very existence of the Philippines.

“We are fighting for our fishermen, we are fighting for our resources. Our existence as the Republic of the Philippines is vital to this fight,” Teodoro said in an interview at the Department of National Defense in Manila. “It is not ours, it is For future generations as well.”

00:40- Source: CNN

A video shows a Chinese ship firing a water cannon at a Philippine ship in disputed waters

“If we do not stop, China will creep and infiltrate what falls within the scope of our sovereign authority, our sovereign rights, and within our territory,” he added, adding that Beijing will not stop until it controls “all.” South China Sea“.

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Beijing says it is protecting its sovereignty and maritime interests in the South China Sea and warned the Philippines this week against “carrying out provocations or looking for trouble.” Fishing vessels and the Philippine Coast Guard were accused of illegal entry into the area.

China claims “indisputable sovereignty” over nearly 1.3 million square miles of the South China Sea, and most of the islands and sandbars within it, including many landmarks hundreds of miles from mainland China. Besides the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei and Taiwan also have competing claims.

Over the past two decades, China has occupied a number of reefs and atolls across the South China Sea. Construction of military facilitiesIncluding runways and ports, which the Philippines says challenge its sovereignty and fishing rights, as well as endanger marine biodiversity in the resource-rich waterway.

In 2016, an international tribunal in The Hague ruled in favor of the Philippines in a historic maritime dispute, concluding that China had no legal basis to claim historic rights over much of the South China Sea.

But Beijing has ignored the decision and continues to expand its presence in the waterway.

01:39- Source: CNN

A video has been released of a diver cutting through a floating sea barrier in China

In his first television interview with an international media since taking office in June, Teodoro was keen to stress that what is happening in the South China Sea affects the world.

Most importantly, the waterway is vital to international trade with trillions of dollars in global shipping passing through it every year. It is also home to vast fertile fishing grounds on which many lives and livelihoods depend, and beneath the waves lie vast reserves of natural gas and oil vie for rival claimants.

With countries already suffering from inflation caused by Russia’s war in Ukraine, there are fears that any slowdown in travel and transport of goods in the South China Sea would lead to a major impact on the global economy.

“It will choke one of the most important supply chain waterways in the whole world, it will choke international trade, and the global economy, especially in the supply chains, will be subject to their whims,” Teodoro said, adding that if that happens “the whole world will react.”

The Defense Minister warned that small countries, including regional partners, depend on international law for their survival.

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“Although they need China, they need Russia, and they see that they too may become a victim of bullying,” Teodoro said. “If (China) closes the South China Sea, the next target will probably be the Strait of Malacca and then the Indian Ocean,” Teodoro said.

03:48- Source: CNN

Why it matters who owns the seas (April 2021)

Just a few years ago, the Philippines was on a more cautious path with its massive neighbor, China.

But since taking office last year, Philippine President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. has taken a stronger stance on the South China Sea than his predecessor Rodrigo Duterte.

On Friday, he defended the Philippine Coast Guard’s removal earlier this week of a floating barrier erected by China in the southeastern part of Bajo de Masinloc, also known as Scarborough Shoal. A disputed area, the shoal is a small but strategic coral reef and fertile fishing ground 130 miles (200 kilometers) west of the Philippine island of Luzon.

Marcos said his administration would not allow foreign entities to establish a barrier “that exists within the Philippines,” according to the official Philippine News Agency.

“We are not looking for trouble. What we will do is continue to defend the Philippines, the maritime region of the Philippines, and the rights of our fishermen who have been fishing there for hundreds of years,” Marcos said in an interview during his visit to Siargao Island.

Marcos added, according to the Philippine National Agency: “We avoid problems, we avoid heated disputes, but our defense of Philippine territory is strong.”

Marcos also strengthened US relations that had soured under Duterte, with the two allies touting increased cooperation and joint patrols in the South China Sea in the future.

In April, the Philippines identified sites Four new military bases The United States will gain access to it, as part of an expanded defense pact that analysts say is aimed at combating China.

Washington condemned Beijing’s recent actions in the disputed sea He threatened to intervene under its obligations under the Mutual Defense Treaty if Philippine ships are subjected to armed attack there.

US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Lindsey Ford reaffirmed Washington’s commitment to the Mutual Defense Treaty in his testimony before a US House of Representatives subcommittee on Tuesday.

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She added that the treaty covers not only the Philippine Armed Forces, but also the Coast Guard and civilian ships and aircraft.

“We have said repeatedly and continue to say that we abide by these commitments absolutely,” Ford said.

Aaron Favela/AP

A Philippine supply boat, center, maneuvers around Chinese Coast Guard vessels as they attempt to block its path near Second Thomas Shoal, known locally as Ayungin Shoal, in the disputed South China Sea on August 22.

Defense Minister Teodoro has concerns about potential escalation “due to the dangerous and reckless maneuvers of Chinese ships” but was clear that any incident – accidental or otherwise – the blame would fall “squarely on China’s shoulders.”

He called on world powers to help put pressure on Beijing over its movements in the South China Sea.

“Peace and stability in this only place in the world will generate some relief and comfort for everyone,” he said.

As part of the Marcos administration’s commitment to strengthen the Philippines’ defense and surveillance capabilities in the South China Sea, Teodoro said more “air and naval assets” have been ordered.

“There will be more patrol aircraft and more helicopters, and we are studying the possibility of obtaining multi-role fighters,” he added, adding that this “will make a difference in our air defense capabilities.”

Preferring calmer heads to prevail, Teodoro said diplomacy would provide a way forward on the condition that Chinese leader Xi Jinping complies with international law.

“I think Filipinos are always ready to talk, as long as that talk does not mean whispering in a back room, or shouting at each other, and means saying that there must be substantive conversations, open, transparent and on a rules-based basis,” he said, while also adding that Beijing cannot use the talks as a delaying tactic.

He said the Philippines has “no choice” but to stand up to China, otherwise “we will lose our identity and integrity as a nation.”

But he added that conflict is not the solution or the desired result.

“Standing up doesn’t really mean going to war with China, no, no. We don’t want that. But we have to stand our ground when our land is being intruded upon.”

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