China blasts Yasay for 'baffling, regrettable' words

MANILA, Philippines – China blasted Philippine Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr after the official said that foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) reject China's reported militarization of the disputed West Philippine Sea (South China Sea). 

Referring to Yasay's recent remarks, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said on Thursday, February 23, "China finds them baffling and regrettable."

Geng made this statement after Yasay on Tuesday, February 21, said ASEAN foreign ministers "have expressed grave concern" about China's militarization of the disputed waters.

Geng said he believes that these "are opinions" of Yasay, "not of the whole ASEAN group."

The Chinese foreign ministry spokesman noted that Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's visit to China in October 2016 has boosted ties between Manila and Beijing. (READ: Duterte visit marks 'full recovery' of PH-China ties)

"As we have noted, Mr Yasay's recent remarks apparently deviate from the consensus of the two leaders, go against the current trend of the sound and rapid development of China-Philippine relations, disagree with the overall stable situation of the South China Sea, and run counter to the shared desire of regional countries to maintain peace and stability of the South China Sea and promote regional cooperation," Geng said. 

"We hope that Mr Yasay can follow the consensus reached by the two leaders and the shared desire of regional countries, exercise prudence, and make concrete efforts to uphold China-Philippines relations and regional peace and stability," the Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said. 

A day after airing the ASEAN's "grave concern" over the sea militarization, Yasay disclosed in another event that China has promised not to build facilities on the disputed Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal) in the West Philippine Sea. 

Geng said China's position on Panatag, such as its claim over it, "is consistent and clear and and is subject to no change." – Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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