Filipino Defense Minister Changes Course, Takes Harder Line on China

Filipino Defense Minister Changes Course, Takes Harder Line on China:

Manila — On Monday, a Philippines’ foreign minister announced his country had filed an official complaint against China — a move, as Anti-Mediareported, that actually demonstrates a strengthening diplomatic bond between the two countries rather than a weakening one. On Tuesday, the Filipino defense minister took a harder line on the issue of China’s installation of military hardware on artificial islands in the South China Sea.

“The actions of China militarizing those disputed features are very troubling,” Defense Minister Delfin Lorenzana said in a statement. “They do not square with the Chinese government’s rhetoric that its purpose is peaceful and friendly.”

On Monday, Filipino Foreign Minister Perfecto Yasay toldCNN Philippines that “when we take action in engaging China in this dispute, we do not want to take such aggressive, proactive action that will not solve the problem.” Yasay said the filing of the official complaint, as the diplomatic process dictates, was to ensure “the interests and rights of the Philippines are properly protected.”

Regardless of his harsher words, Minister Lorenzana would seem to agree with Yasay’s approach. He stated, according to Reuters, that “a diplomatic protest was the correct procedure,” but despite warming ties with China, “the government still had a duty to protect the national interest.”

The South China Sea dispute, which centers on regional nations such as Vietnam as they combat China’s nearly all-encompassing territorial claim to those waters, was thrown into the spotlight once again last week as incoming President Trump’s pick for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, brought a staunch anti-China position with him into his Senate confirmation hearing.

“We’re going to have to send China a clear signal that, first, the island-building stops,” he stated when asked if he supported a more aggressive posture toward China, “and, second, your access to those islands also is not going to be allowed.”

Tillerson went on to call China’s actions in the South China Sea “extremely worrisome,” arguing China’s absolute control over those waters would have a negative impact on the global economy as the trade routes there see around $5 trillion worth of traffic annually.

“They’re taking territory or control, or declaring control of territories that are not rightfully China’s,” the would-be secretary of state said.

H/t reader kevin a.

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