MANILA, Philippines, August 5 ------ The Philippine government added its voice to growing concerns over China’s live ammunition drills taking place near Taiwan, a move that has sparked worries of a crisis and potential military standoff in the region.
“The Philippines is concerned with the rising tensions in the Taiwan Strait, just north of the Philippines,” the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said in a statement. China had earlier announced it would conduct a series of live fire drills that would run until August 7, in waters and airspace that surrounded the self-governing island. Taiwan’s defense ministry told reporters that China’s military launched at least two missiles. The show of force comes after United States House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited the self-governing island, prompting anger in Beijing, which had warned of “serious consequences” should the trip push through. The unprecedented military exercises – some of which are expected to take place in areas that Taiwan considers part of its territorial waters – were likewise being carried out in waters close to Batanes, a province located at the northernmost tip of the Philippines. The Philippines and Taiwan share a sea border off the north of Luzon.
China earlier identified six areas where it would hold exercises, three of which were located in areas Taiwan said were within its territorial waters. The New York Times reported that a map of where the drills would take place showed how several would occur as close as 10 miles off Taiwan’s coast and that, in total, “five zones surround the island and mark a clear escalation from previous Chinese exercises.” In a warning, China also said airlines and ships should avoid the six areas or “danger zones” it identified for 72 hours. Responding to these developments, the Philippines called on the US and China to exercise restraint and pursue dialogue. Top diplomats of the US and China are both in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where a series of meetings were scheduled to take place in line with the 55th Association of Southeast Asian Nations Foreign Ministers’ Meeting. US State Secretary Antony Blinken is also scheduled to visit several countries, including the Philippines, after Cambodia. “Diplomacy and dialogue must prevail,” the DFA said.
In the face of rising tensions, the Philippines likewise reiterated its commitment to the One-China policy, which recognized the People’s Republic of China as “the sole legal Government of China.” Manila first agreed to stand by the One-China policy in a joint communiqué signed with China in 1975, which established diplomatic ties between the two countries. Under the terms of the 1975 Joint Communiqué, the Philippines likewise said it “fully understands and respects the position of the Chinese Government that there is but one China and that Taiwan is an integral part of Chinese territory.” In adherence to the policy, the Philippines’ president, vice president, foreign secretary, and defense secretary are “strictly” prohibited from visiting Taiwan. Meanwhile, visits by other Philippine officials should be done using “ordinary passports and without using their official titles,” with notice given to the DFA. Economic, cultural, and commercial ties likewise continue between the Philippines and Taiwan.
Taiwan earlier hit Beijing’s live fire exercises as actions that amounted to a “blockade” as well as “threatens international waterways and challenges international order.”