The Philippines has recalled its ambassador to China as Beijing accuses Manila of creating a problem over a disputed island in the South China Sea.
Philippine Ambassador to China Erlinda Basilio flew back to Manila on Friday for consultations over disputed Huangyan Island, located about 220 kilometers off the main Philippine island of Luzon. The Philippine Defense Department accused China of illegally laying 75 concrete blocks on the chain of reefs and rocks along the Scarborough Shoal. Manila said the Chinese blocks were laid within the internationally recognized exclusive economic zone of the Philippines, and could be used as a prelude for Beijing to build structures at the shoal. On Thursday, Chinese officials urged the Philippines to engage in talks about the code of conduct(COC) in the South China Sea. China rejected the allegations of block - laying, while asserting its sovereignty over the shoal - located about 650 kilometers from Hainan Island, the nearest Chinese land mass.
“The Scarborough Shoal is China’s intrinsic territory. The Philippines should respect China’s sovereignty… and create the necessary conditions and environment for discussions over the COC, rather than making trouble out of nothing, ” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei.
China will host other Southeast Asian countries later this month to discuss COC conditions for the South China Sea. Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam also have declared their claims to parts of the South China Sea. China and the Philippines have had recurring standoffs over the disputed territories of the South China Sea, amid US calls for stronger military alliances and more troop presence in the Asia-Pacific region. The US recently increased joint military exercises with the Philippines and other countries in the Asia-Pacific region. Analysts have warned that the Philippines risks losing part of its sovereignty by agreeing to expand the US military presence in the country, while Washington is sending a signal to the region that it supports the Philippines’ claims on the South China Sea disputes.