China could launch a “counterstrike” against the Philippines if it does not stop "provoking" Beijing in the South China Sea, Chinese state media warned Saturday.
Philippine forces have committed “seven sins” at the disputed islands of the South China Sea, the People's Daily, the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party, said in a commentary. The newspaper said the "sins" include the “illegal occupation” of the Spratly Islands, which is “promoting internationalization” of the disputed waters by inviting foreign investments, Reuters reported.
China and the Philippines have been locked in a decades-old territorial dispute over a number of resource-rich islands and reefs in the South China Sea. Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei also gave conflicting claims in the area.
The Chinese paper accused the Philippines of inviting the U.S. to act as a “patron” and said the Association of South East Asian Nations has become an “accomplice” to Manila’s “illegal occupations,” Reuters reported, citing the People’s Daily report.
"The Philippines, knowing that it's weak, believes that 'a crying child will have milk to drink'," the report said, adding that Manila is “resorting to many unscrupulous tricks" in the region.
The warning comes as the ASEAN foreign ministers meet for their annual summit in Brunei on Saturday. The 10-member ASEAN is expected to discuss the maritime disputes in the South China Sea and to issue a "code of conduct" to resolve disputes in the region, Reuters reported.
Tensions between the countries flared up last week, after Philippines moved fresh military supplies to a disputed island, the Second Thomas Shoal, known as the Ren'ai reef in China.
Beijing on Saturday, condemned what it described as Manila’s “illegal occupation” of the disputed coral reef.
“China's determination to safeguard its national sovereignty is resolute and unwavering and (we) will never accept any form of illegal occupation of the Ren'ai reef by the Philippines,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said, according to a separate Reuters report.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Thursday warned the claimants of South China Sea against seeking help from third parties (i.e. the U.S.), saying such efforts will be futile and the path of confrontation will be “doomed.”
The Philippines claims sovereign rights over the disputed island and accuses China of encroaching it, after Beijing stationed three ships, including a naval frigate, just 5 nautical miles away.
In 1999, the Philippines ran an old transport ship aground on a reef in the island to mark its territory and stationed its soldiers in the wrecked ship. It has been rejecting repeated demands from Beijing to retrieve the ship.
The Philippines and Vietnam have been at odds with China over its increasingly assertive posture with regard to the ownership of the Scarborough Shoal, which is about 124 nautical miles off the Philippine coast in the South China Sea, for several months now.