Philippines warns China of ‘severest response’ if military drills reach PH territorial waters

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 3) — The Philippines would unleash “the severest response” if China’s military exercises in the South China Sea spills over to the country’s territory, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro “Teddy Boy” Locsin, Jr. warned.

In a video message on Friday, Locsin said the Chinese People’s Liberation Army has been conducting naval exercises around Paracel Islands since July 1. The disputed Paracel Islands in the South China Sea are being claimed by China and Vietnam.

Locsin said he immediately checked where the drills would take place, as announced by China, and saw that they “do not impinge on Philippine territory.”

“Should the exercises spill over to Philippine territory then China is forewarned that it will be met with the severest response, diplomatic and whatever else is appropriate,” Locsin said.

He cited the diplomatic protest earlier filed by the Philippines over China’s creation of two new districts in what it calls Sansha City.

China's self-proclaimed districts include the Xisha or Paracel Islands, and some areas Manila claims and occupies as part of the West Philippine Sea.

Locsin added that while China, like any other country, is entitled to freedom of navigation, it "requires a straight and uninterrupted voyage."

He reiterated the call for all South China Sea claimants to exercise self-restraint and adhere to international law to avoid escalating tension.

Despite the country’s “interest and some concern” over the naval exercises off the Paracels, Locsin stressed that China remains the Philippines’ “biggest trading partner” and that it has a big role in any post-pandemic recovery not just of the Philippines but of the world.

The Duterte administration has nurtured friendship with China despite its refusal to recognize the Philippines' 2016 win at the Permanent Court of Arbitration, which invalidates Beijing's sweeping claim to almost the entire South China Sea.