China won’t ‘bully’ neighbors over South China Sea, foreign minister says

January 18, 2022 - 11:06 AM
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China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Philippine's Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., bump their elbows during a meeting in Manila, Philippines January 16, 2021. (Francis Malasig/Pool via Reuters/File Photo)

MANILA — China will not use its strength to “bully” its smaller neighbors including the Philippines, its foreign minister said on Monday, as he highlighted the importance of settling disputes in the South China Sea peacefully.

“Stressing only one side’s claims and imposing one’s own will on the other is not a proper way for neighbors to treat each other and it goes against the oriental philosophy of how people should get along with each other,” Wang Yi, the Chinese government’s top diplomat, told a virtual forum organized by China’s embassy in Manila and a local advocacy group.

His remarks come less than two months after the Philippines condemned China’s blocking of a military resupply ship in the South China Sea, which prompted a warning from treaty ally the United States that an attack on Philippine vessels would invoke its mutual defense commitments.

China’s extensive territorial claims in the South China Sea, which it says are based on historic maps, have put it at odds with Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam, which have competing claims to islands and features.

China has been accused by Western countries of aggression and provocations by deploying hundreds of coast guard and fishing vessels in the exclusive economic zones of its neighbors, including the Philippines, far off its mainland.

China says its actions are justified, because the vessels are in its territory. The Philippines has objected to what it calls “incursions” and “swarming”.

Wang said China hopes with the Philippines it can “properly manage and resolve the issue in the spirit of goodwill and pragmatism”.

Chinese deputy foreign minister Fu Ying told the forum that China hopes that whoever wins a Philippine presidential election this May could “wisely, courageously, responsibly carry on Philippines‘ independent foreign policy.” —Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales; Writing by Karen Lema; Editing by Martin Petty