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Philippines should recognize the risks of playing the role US has assigned it: China Daily editorial | Updated: 2023-12-04 20:08
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Ren'ai Reef [File photo/]

The South China Sea is neither a backyard garden in which the US can gambol carefree nor an arena for its geopolitical games. Contrary to its claim of safeguarding the "rules-based order" in the Asia-Pacific, the US is the biggest threat to the region's peace and stability. It is looking to exploit proxies in the region for its troublemaking, and unfortunately the Philippines has obliged.

Instead of appreciating Beijing's forbearance toward the old ship it intentionally grounded on China's Ren'ai Reef in 1999, in a move designed to make it a fait accompli that the reef belongs to the Philippines, Manila seems to have mistaken it for weakness and taken the initiative to play the role of agent provocateur that Washington has assigned to it. That's a shortsighted and dangerous strategic misjudgment. While it has exercised full restraint in response to the latest irresponsible and provocative moves of the United States and the Philippines, the People's Liberation Army remains alert and will act resolutely to safeguard national sovereignty and security.

All can clearly see that it is the US that is deliberately stirring up trouble in the waters with its own boorish behavior and its attempt to embolden the Philippines in its dispute with China over the reef. The US and the Philippines held their first joint air and sea patrol in the South China Sea in years late last month with the PLA responding with a large-scale live-fire drill. In its latest move, the US military sent its littoral combat ship USS Gabrielle Giffords to cruise in waters near China's Ren'ai Reef of the Nansha Islands in the South China Sea on Monday. The 3,104-tonne vessel, which is designed to navigate in shallow coastal regions, has a maximum speed of 47 knots. With its agility and high-speed, the US side was apparently hoping to entice the PLA to play catch the mouse.

The PLA saw no need to play that game. Instead, it organized maritime forces to monitor the passage of the US warship, which "illegally" entered the waters "without the approval of the Chinese government", as Tian Junli, spokesperson for the PLA's Southern Theater Command, said in a statement on Monday.

The US' support for the Philippines, which is intended to turn the maritime dispute that Manila and Beijing have both agreed should be resolved through negotiations and dialogue into the flashpoint for a regional conflict, stems from its self-serving calculation of making regional countries collateral for its China-containment strategy.

The grave sufferings of people in US-instigated conflicts on the other side of the Eurasian continent should be stern reminders to regional countries such as the Philippines of how imperative it is they give the cold shoulder to that role.

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