UK condemns China’s incursions in West PH Sea, minister says

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 31) — The United Kingdom (UK) condemns China’s recent incursions and coercive behavior toward the Philippines, one of the nation’s ministers said.

In an exclusive interview with CNN Philippines on Thursday, UK Minister for Indo-Pacific Anne-Marie Trevelyan said the East Asian giant is an important trading partner of the UK but maintained that its behavior in Philippine waters is “unacceptable.”

“Those sorts of behavior are unacceptable," Trevelyan said. "We all follow the rules of the sea, both in terms of freedom of navigation and respecting all other vessels on the sea. That is so important."

“We condemn that sort of behavior from absolutely anyone so it’s very disappointing to hear that Chinese coast guards are behaving in that way” she added.

According to Tevelyan, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s foreign and defense policy shows that the UK would want to continue business with China but would also not hesitate to protect and defend its assets when push comes to shove.

“Where we see China behaving in coercive ways, in ways that are reducing in the values that we believe in – free trade, free flows of goods and services – those sorts of issues, we will be very firm,” the minister said.

“We’ve brought in, last year, a security investment act where we set out very clearly that the UK will defend and protect its assets, its investments from those who do not wish to play by our rules,” Trevelyan added.

This month, Chinese vessels have been seen sailing in Philippine waters, with dozens of suspected maritime militia and coast guard ships spotted in the vicinity of Pag-asa Island, according to local authorities. 

WATCH: At least two Chinese Coast Guard vessels spotted near Sabina Shoal 

In February, other nations previously expressed support for Manila and called out Beijing’s recent actions in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) — particularly the Chinese Coast Guard’s (CCG) use of a blinding laser against a Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) ship near Ayungin Shoal. 

Early this year, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Chinese President Xi Jinping had a “candid” and “in-depth” discussion in Beijing on the WPS dispute, with both leaders agreeing that differences should be resolved through peaceful means.