Marcos says Philippines will assert South China Sea rights amid China warning

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The Philippines will continue asserting its rights in the South China Sea, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said after China warned the nation against causing “trouble in disputed waters.”

The Southeast Asian nation “remains a force and voice of reason despite “many attempts at provocation,” Marcos said in a statement quoting his speech before the military on Thursday. He also said that his country exemplifies “responsible and dignified behavior in resolving issues in accordance with international law.

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The Philippine leader’s remarks came after Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the two nations’ ties are “facing serious difficulties.” Wang also said Manila “must act with caution” and warned against colluding with “malicious external forces.”

Tensions between China and the Philippines have escalated, with their vessels clashing in the South China Sea several times in recent months. Manila has protested what it describes as Beijing’s harassment, while China has maintained its actions are lawful.

Armed Forces of the Philippines chief Romeo Brawner Jr. was aboard a Philippine boat that was rammed by a Chinese coast guard vessel in the contested waters earlier this month.

“The recent incidents involving no less than our AFP chief of staff is worrisome,” Marcos said. “But it is a proud demonstration of Filipino courage against coercion and our firm resolve to protect, preserve, and uphold our territorial integrity.”

The Philippines is planning multilateral patrols with nations like France, India, Canada, and the UK next year, Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro said in a CNN Philippines interview earlier on Thursday. An access agreement with Japan is also possible in 2024, he added.

Read more: Philippines defense minister rebukes China over South China Sea claims

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