UPDATE - Chinese military backs firing water cannon at Philippines vessels
Defense Ministry says water cannon used against Filipino vessels ‘to avoid direct collision’
UPDATES WITH STATEMENTS BY CHINA’S DEFENSE AND FOREIGN MINISTRIES, CHANGES HEADLINE, DECK
By Riyaz ul Khaliq
ISTANBUL (AA) - China Tuesday backed the firing of water cannon at Philippines vessels, which triggered fiery responses from Manila.
Defense Ministry spokesman Wu Qian reiterated China’s “sovereignty” over the Nansha Islands, including the Ren'ai Jiao, “which has sufficient historical and legal basis.”
The ministry’s reaction came amid a call for the boycott of Chinese goods in the Philippines after Manila lodged a protest with Beijing over the firing of water cannons at its vessels on Saturday.
However, China’s Defense Ministry accused the Philippines of “violating” its commitments when its vessels attempted to deliver construction materials for maintenance and reinforcement to warships illegally "grounded" on the site.
“The Chinese coast guard ship blocked it in accordance with the law and adopted warning law enforcement measures,” Wu said in a statement.
“In order to avoid direct blocking and collisions when repeated warnings were ineffective, water cannons were used to warn (the Filipino vessels),” he added.
On Washington’s reaction to the sea tussle between Beijing and Manila, Wu said: “The United States is not a party to the South China Sea issue and has no right to dictate this issue.”
“We urge the US to immediately stop using the South China Sea issue to sow discord and earnestly respect China’s territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea, and respect the active efforts made by countries in the region to maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea,” he added.
Earlier on Tuesday, a top Philippines senator called for a boycott of Chinese goods and companies.
Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri on Tuesday also said Manila “should start looking for other trading partners instead of relying on China.”
“So, we can just boycott the Chinese-made products, the Chinese companies coming in here to show our anger towards them in that way,” he said.
China, however, called on the Philippines to remove its rusting warship from a reef in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea where the incident happened last week when Filipino vessels were sailing to supply the soldiers deployed at the site.
China’s top diplomat was also summoned to the Philippines Foreign Ministry to express displeasure over the issue.
In a separate statement, China’s Foreign Ministry called the Philippines an “important maritime neighbor.”
“Important common understandings exist between our two sides on managing maritime disputes. China stands ready to continue to work with the Philippines to properly handle maritime issues through dialogue and consultation and jointly uphold bilateral relations and maritime stability,” it said.
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