The Philippines has taken the gloves off in its dispute with Beijing over the South China Sea, with its top diplomat dropping the F-bomb as he demanded the withdrawal of Chinese vessels near the Scarborough Shoal.
Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jnr took to Twitter, calling China an “ugly oaf” and demanding it “get the f*** out” of Philippine maritime waters. His colourful language followed reports that Chinese coastguard ships had harassed their Philippine counterparts in the vicinity of the shoal, which is claimed by both countries.
The outburst is the latest of dozens of recent protests by Manila’s foreign affairs department, along with increasingly acerbic remarks by the country’s top diplomat and defence chief about Chinese actions in the disputed waters. The high-profile feud has escalated despite President Rodrigo Duterte’s friendly stance toward China.
Locsin tweeted: “China, my friend, how politely can I put it? Let me see… o…get the f*** out.
“What are you doing to our friendship?” Locsin continued. “You’re like an ugly oaf forcing your attentions on a handsome guy who wants to be a friend.”
Shocked reaction to the missive included criticism of Locsin’s language, with one post on Twitter saying: “Your job is to defend your nation’s interests by using diplomacy, not the language of a school boy.”
Another asked: “Hold on. Isn’t this guy supposed to be ‘diplomatic’?”
Locsin is famous for using crude language in public. In 2016, Buzzfeed called him a “massive Twitter troll”.
Asked about Locsin’s tweet, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said, “we won’t meddle in the free-speech rights of secretary Locsin”.
Meanwhile, Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has rejected China’s demand that the Philippines end its patrols in the disputed region.
“While we acknowledge that China’s military capability is more advanced than ours, this does not prevent us from defending our national interests and our dignity as a people with all that we have,” Lorenzana said in a video message late Sunday,
In the latest incident, the Department of Foreign Affairs said it “has protested the shadowing, blocking, dangerous manoeuvre and radio challenges by the Chinese coast guard of Philippine coast guard vessels conducting legitimate maritime patrols and training exercises” from April 24 to 25 near Scarborough Shoal off the northwestern Philippines.
Both countries claim the rich fishing area, which China effectively seized in 2012 by surrounding it with its coast guard and surveillance ships after a tense standoff with Philippine vessels.
The department said it also protested “the incessant, illegal, prolonged and increasing presence of Chinese fishing vessels and maritime militia vessels in Philippine maritime zones” in the disputed waters. It said hundreds of Chinese vessels have been spotted by Philippine law enforcement agencies from January to March this year in areas around Scarborough Shoal and Philippine-occupied Thitu Island, which Filipinos call Pagasa.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry has asked the Philippines to respect what it calls Chinese sovereignty in the disputed waters and “stop actions complicating the situation and escalating disputes.” China claims virtually all of the South China Sea. On Sunday, its People’s Liberation Army said a Chinese aircraft carrier group recently conducted annual exercises in the busy sea lanes.
The escalating feud between Manila and Beijing started after more than 200 Chinese vessels suspected by Philippine authorities to be operated by militias were spotted in early March at Whitsun Reef. The Philippine government demanded the vessels leave, then deployed coast guard vessels to the area. China said it owns the reef and the Chinese vessels were sheltering from rough seas.
Many of the Chinese vessels have left Whitsun, about 175 nautical miles (325 kilometres) west of the Philippine province of Palawan, but several have remained moored in the area, part of a shallow atoll partly occupied by China and Vietnam. The Philippine government says the reef is within an internationally recognised offshore zone where Manila has exclusive rights to exploit fisheries, oil, gas and other resources.
The United States has said it will stand by the Philippines amid the territorial disputes.
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