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China opposes ‘meddling’ in South China Sea amid PH-US defense guidelines

China is opposed to what it called meddling in the South China Sea to harm its territorial sovereignty and maritime rights, a spokesperson for the Chinese foreign affairs ministry said on Thursday.

Foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning made the remark in a news briefing when asked about the Philippines and US' bilateral defense guidelines which spelled out how the US will come to the Philippines' defense if it came under attack in the South China Sea.

"With the concerted efforts of regional countries, the situation in the South China Sea has maintained overall stability. The US-Philippines defense guidelines is a bilateral arrangement," Mao said.

"China firmly opposes any country’s move to meddle in the South China Sea issue to harm China’s territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests by citing the guidelines," she added.

"I would like to stress that the South China Sea is the shared home for countries in the region, not a hunting ground for forces outside the region. When regional countries are committed to mutual trust, solidarity, cooperation and properly handling differences, they have in their hand the key to peace and stability in the South China Sea," Mao said.

Defense Department officer in charge Carlito Galvez and US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in Washington established the bilateral defense guidelines between the two countries to modernize the alliance cooperation "for a free and open Indo-Pacific region."

Under the guidelines, the Philippines and the US will expand cooperation on maritime security through but not limited to joint patrols.

According to a fact sheet released by the White House, the goal is to expand cooperation on maritime security and maritime domain awareness, including through the continued conduct of combined maritime activities, including but not limited to joint patrol.

The guidelines "reaffirmed that an armed attack in the Pacific, including anywhere in the South China Sea, on either of their aircraft or armed forces – which includes their Coast Guards – would invoke mutual defense commitments under the 1951 PH-US Mutual Defense Treaty."

"Recognizing that threats may arise in several domains—including land, sea, air, space, and cyberspace—and take the form of asymmetric, hybrid, and irregular warfare and gray-zone tactics, the guidelines chart a way forward to build interoperability in both conventional and non-conventional domains," the DOD fact sheet read.

The guidelines aim to strengthen Manila and Washington's combined deterrence in an evolving security environment, including to:

  • Reaffirm the US - Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty’s enduring relevance in addressing both current and emerging threats;
  • Foster a common understanding of roles, missions, and capabilities within the framework of the alliance to face regional and global security challenges;
  • Drive unity of effort across all areas of bilateral security and defense cooperation to sustain focus on principal regional security concerns; and
  • Guide priority areas of defense cooperation to address both conventional and non-conventional security challenges of shared concern.

—NB, GMA Integrated News