In 'Utmost Displeasure,' Manila Summons Chinese Ambassador

Reef standoff stoking tensions, DFA says.
IMAGE Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Erica Bechard/U.S.Navy via AP

The Department of Foreign Affairs said Tuesday it summoned China's ambassador to Manila to express "utmost displeasure" over Beijing's refusal to pull out Chinese vessels from a reef that is within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone.

Manila demanded the withdrawal of the Chinese ships that are illegally "lingering" off Julian Felipe (Whitsun) Reef, the DFA said. China had said that the reef is within what it calls the Nansha Islands, invoking a claim that a UN tribunal invalidated in 2016.

Before Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian was called to the DFA, Foreign Affairs Sec. Teodoro Locsin Jr. had lodged daily diplomatic protests to pressure China to pull out its ships.

Foreign Affairs Acting Usec. Elizabeth Buensuceso also reminded Huang to observe "proper decorum," calling the envoy out for an embassy statement that rejected Defense Sec. Delfin Lorenzana's earlier demand for the Chinese ships to leave Julian Felipe Reef.

The DFA said Huang was reminded that Julian Felipe reef is within the Philippines' EEZ and that the standoff there was a "source of regional tension." The U.S. has expressed concern over the developments in the region and said that if the Philippines was attacked, it would be obligated to defend its treaty ally.

The DFA said "both sides affirmed the use of peaceful settlement of disputes in addressing their difference on the SCS/WPS issue". 

This story originally appeared on Minor edits have been made by editors.

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