The Philippines is calling for the expulsion of Chinese diplomats as the South China Sea row escalates

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Chinese Coast Guard ships fire water cannons at a Philippine supply ship Unaizah on May 4 as it headed to the Second Thomas Shoal in the South China Sea, March 5, 2024. | Photo credit: Reuters

The Philippines’ national security adviser on May 10 called for the expulsion of Chinese diplomats over an alleged leak of a phone call with a Philippine admiral, significantly escalating a bitter row over the South China Sea.

The Chinese embassy in Manila had orchestrated “repeated acts of involvement and dissemination of disinformation, disinformation and bad information” aimed at sowing discord, division and division, Eduardo Ano said in a statement.

These actions “should not be allowed to pass without serious penalties,” he said.

The Chinese embassy in Manila did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the call to expel diplomats. The office of Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and the State Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The two countries have been embroiled in a series of heated confrontations in disputed areas of the South China Sea over the past year, while the Philippines, emboldened by support from the United States and other allies, has stepped up activities in waters monitored by the Chinese coast guard.

China has accused the Philippines of wrongdoing and treason, while Manila has reprimanded Beijing for what it says is a policy of aggression and dangerous maneuvering.

The expulsion of diplomats could intensify a row that has so far led to heated arguments, diplomatic protests and the ramming and water cannoning of Philippine ships on two disputed shoals in the South China Sea.

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Mr. Ano referred to a news report this week about an alleged leak of a phone conversation between a Chinese diplomat and a Philippine admiral over a South China Sea dispute, which included a transcript showing the admiral agreeing to concessions with China.

According to the transcript published by the Manila timesa Philippine admiral had agreed to China’s proposal for a “new model” under which the Philippines would use fewer ships on supply missions to troops at the Second Thomas Shoal, and provide Beijing with advance notice of missions.

Reuters did not hear the reported phone call and could not verify the contents of the published transcript. The report said the conversation took place in January and the transcript came from a “senior Chinese official,” who was not named.

Interference operations

Mr. Ano said he supported the Defense Secretary’s call for the Department of Foreign Affairs to take appropriate action against embassy officials, who he said recorded an alleged telephone conversation in violation of Philippine laws, including the law against eavesdropping on telephone conversations. serious violations of diplomatic protocols.

“The individuals in the Chinese embassy… and those responsible for these malign influence and interference operations must be immediately deported,” he said.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lin Jian said on May 8 that the embassy in Manila had released details of “relevant communications” between the two countries on the management of the situation at the disputed Second Thomas Shoal, where Philippine troops stationed on a grounded warship.

Mr Jian did not elaborate on what details or communications were released, but said that “the facts are clear and are supported by hard evidence that cannot be denied.”

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“The Philippines has insisted on denying these objective facts and is trying to mislead the international community,” Mr Jian added.

China has long been annoyed by the Philippines’ stationing of a small group of Marines at the Second Thomas Shoal aboard a warship it deliberately grounded 25 years ago.

Beijing has repeatedly said the Philippines had agreed to tow that ship away, which Manila has rejected.

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