China hits out at ‘bloc politics’ in response to new US-Japan-Philippines grouping

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said Tokyo and Manila “should not engage in trilateral cooperation at the expense of the interests of other countries”. - PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING (The Straits Times/ANN): China is firmly opposed to the manipulation of bloc politics and the creation of “closed and exclusive circles” in the region, said China’s Foreign Ministry on April 12, in a strongly worded response to a new trilateral partnership between the US, Japan and the Philippines.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said Tokyo and Manila “should not engage in trilateral cooperation at the expense of the interests of other countries”.

US President Joe Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr had earlier issued a joint vision statement after their first trilateral meeting at the White House on April 11.

While the statement committed the three partners to boost cooperation on economic development, technology and climate change, among other things, analysts agreed there was a shared security concern over China.

The statement had expressed “serious concerns” about China’s “dangerous and aggressive behaviour” in the South China Sea, where Beijing has overlapping claims with several Asean countries, including the Philippines, as well as on the “situation in the East China Sea”, where China and Japan both lay claim to a group of islands.

Ms Mao said: “Look at the joint statement issued by the three parties; it is all in black and white and could not be clearer. What is this if not a wanton smear campaign against China?”

Mr Liu Jinsong, director-general of the Asian Affairs Department at China’s Foreign Ministry, also on April 12 made “solemn representations” and expressed “serious concerns and strong dissatisfaction over Japan’s negative moves” to Mr Yokochi Akira, chief minister of the Japanese embassy in China, on the trilateral summit and the US-Japan one on April 10.

The new trilateral adds to recent regional groupings, such as the Aukus alliance between the US, Australia and Britain, and the Quad security dialogue between the US, Australia, India and Japan, which Beijing views as targeted towards it.

The key concern over the South China Sea comes after Beijing’s numerous clashes since 2023 with the Philippines near the Second Thomas Shoal, which both countries claim as theirs.

Among the latest incidents was one on March 23, in which Manila said China’s coast guard fired water cannon at one of its supply boats.

Beijing claims almost the entire South China Sea, but the nine-dash line accompanying its claim and its land reclamation activities in the contested waters were regarded as unlawful by an international court in 2016 in a case filed by the Philippines.

On April 7, the US and three countries with which it has security treaties – Japan, the Philippines and Australia – held their first joint naval exercise in the South China Sea, which was meant to uphold “freedom of navigation” in international waters.

Beijing views such drills as excuses for “trespassing” in the South China Sea, and sees any US involvement in the territorial disputes in the waterway as external interference.

Ms Mao said on April 12: “Some countries are emboldened by the support of external countries, and continue to take infringing and provocative actions in the sea, causing the situation to heat up.”

Associate Professor Chong Ja Ian from the National University of Singapore said there could be some raising of tensions with the new partnership. Beijing could find ways to try and challenge the US and its allies and partners, he said.

“However, Beijing – and everyone else – should also be plainly aware of the risks of matters getting out of control. That could encourage all actors to become more careful to avoid unintended and uncontrolled escalation,” said Prof Chong, an expert on Chinese politics and foreign policy.

Assistant Professor Amrita Jash from the Manipal Academy of Higher Education in India said the new trilateral is another “mini-lateral” in the Indo-Pacific after the Quad and Aukus, which all have a China focus. But such a move is an outcome of China’s acts, she added.

“One can argue that China’s assertive and aggressive posture has reinvigorated the Cold War alliance mindset.” - The Straits Times/ANN

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China , Hits Out , China , Japan , Philippines , Bloc Politics


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