Manila slams Beijing over 'militarisation' amid sea rows
THE Philippines hit out at China yesterday over the "increasing militarisation" of the South China Sea, as tensions between the neighbours flared amid slow-moving regional efforts to forge a compromise over one of Asia's naval flashpoints.
The rebuke by Philippine Foreign Minister Albert del Rosario at a regional summit in Brunei came a day after China's state media warned of an inevitable "counterstrike" against the Philippines if it continued to provoke Beijing.
The Philippine official said the "massive" presence of Chinese military and paramilitary ships at the Second Thomas Shoal and at another reef - the Scarborough Shoal, site of a tense stand-off last year - was a threat to regional peace.
"The statement on a counterstrike is an irresponsible one. We condemn any threats (involving) the use of force," he said in Brunei following a meeting of Asean foreign ministers.
Friction between China and the Philippines over disputed territories in the oil- and gas-rich sea has intensified since last year, due to several naval stand-offs.
Most recently, the Philippines accused China of encroaching on its territory after three Chinese ships converged about 9km from a small reef where the Philippines maintains a small military force.
Asean hopes to persuade Beijing to join talks on a proposed code of conduct this year, even as China's naval actions have alarmed some nations, particularly the Philippines and Vietnam.