By Laurie Chen
BEIJING (Reuters) -China on Thursday said it will not turn a blind eye to repeated “provocations and harassment” by the Philippines, amid heightened tensions over a spate of run-ins in the South China Sea.
Manila earlier this month accused the Chinese coastguard and maritime militia of repeatedly firing water cannons at its resupply boats, causing “serious engine damage” to one, and “deliberately” ramming another.
Calling the accusations “purely false hype,” Wu Qian, a defence ministry spokesperson, said the Philippine side insisted on sending vessels to “intrude into” waters near a disputed shoal and “proactively rammed” a Chinese Coast Guard vessel.
At a news conference, Wu said the China Coast Guard took necessary enforcement measures which were justified and legitimate.
“China is always committed to resolving differences through dialogue and consultation and making joint efforts to maintain maritime stability, but we will not turn a blind eye to the Philippine’s repeated provocations and harassment,” Wu said.
A Philippine military spokesperson said earlier this week the country was not provoking conflict in the South China Sea, after Chinese state media accused Manila of relying on U.S. support to continually antagonize China.
Relations soured between the two neighbours over the South China Sea under Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr, with Manila pivoting back to the United States, which supports the Southeast Asian nation in its maritime disputes with China.
“We urge the U.S. to immediately stop meddling in the South China Sea issue, stop emboldening and supporting Philippine infringement and provocation, and safeguard regional security with concrete actions,” Wu said at the news conference.
(Reporting by Laurie Chen, Ella Cao and Ryan Woo; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and Christina Fincher)