BEIJING, July 3 China's top newspaper accused
the Philippines of orchestrating a plot to deliberately stir up
tensions over the disputed South China Sea, and warned that
Beijing's patience should not be mistaken for weakness.
The Philippines may ask the United States to deploy spy
planes over the area to help monitor its waters, President
Benigno Aquino told Reuters on Monday, a move that could worsen
tensions with its giant neighbour China.
China and the Philippines only recently stepped back from a
months-long standoff at the Scarborough Shoal, a
horseshoe-shaped reef near the Philippines in waters they both
claim - the latest round of naval brinkmanship over the
China, the Philippines, Taiwan, Brunei, Vietnam and Malaysia
all have competing claims in the South China Sea, but China's
claims encompass almost all its waters.
A commentary in Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece the
People's Daily on Tuesday said the Philippines was once more
planning to stoke tensions over the issue at a key regional
security summit starting later this week in Cambodia.
"On the cusp of the ASEAN foreign ministers meetings, the
Philippines is sparing no effort to stir up the South China Sea
issue through all sorts of means, and we should be on guard
against its plots," the newspaper wrote.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations' (ASEAN) meeting
will be attended in its latter stages by China and the United
States, who have repeatedly clashed over the South China Sea.
China has warned that "external forces" should not get involved.
The United States has stressed it is neutral in the
long-running maritime dispute, despite offering to help boost
the Philippines' decrepit military forces.
The People's Daily said ASEAN was not the right forum to
discuss the South China Sea, repeating the government's stance
that talks should only happen on a bilateral basis between the
countries directly involved.
The Cambodia summit should instead focus on other issues, it
suggested, like an ASEAN nuclear weapons-free zone.
All countries, including the Philippines, would also do well
to remember the economic benefits they have gained from China's
boom, it added.
"What the Philippines wants to do runs counter to the common
interest of ASEAN, and will not be echoed by many other
countries," the paper said.
"China's cherishing of regional peace and stability and ...
good intentions should not be seen as weakness nor as yielding."
The commentary was published under the pen name "Zhong
Sheng", meaning "Voice of China", which is often used to give
the paper's view on foreign policy issues.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Paul Tait)