Manila 'cute little submissive' of US: China media

BEIJING (AFP) - The Philippines is nothing more than the "cute little submissive" of the United States, a Chinese tabloid with close ties to the ruling Communist Party said on Tuesday, criticising Manila for military exercises with Washington.

The English-language editorial came a day after the Philippines launched giant 10-day war games with the US and Australia, partly aimed as a warning shot to Beijing amid competing claims in the South China Sea, home to vital shipping routes.

"Of all the countries involved in territorial disputes in the South China Sea, the Philippines is the one with the most tricks up its sleeves, but none of its tricks work," the Global Times said.

"Can anyone believe that China can be bluffed to make compromises when others show off their military muscle?" added the paper, affiliated with the Communist Party mouthpiece the People's Daily.

"We will simply find it laughable while imagining Philippine personnel stumbling after US forces." Beijing claims sovereignty over most of the resource-rich and strategically important South China Sea, including areas close to other Asian nations, using vague demarcation lines that first appeared on Chinese maps in the 1940s.

China has expanded its presence in disputed parts of the sea in recent years by embarking on giant reclamation work on reefs and islets, turning some into islands capable of hosting military aircraft landing strips.

The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have overlapping claims.

In efforts to deter China, the militarily-weak Philippines has encouraged longtime ally the US to increase its presence in the country and its coastal waters through expanded and more frequent defence exercises.

But the Global Times editorial dismissed their effectiveness, saying: "After being the 'cute little submissive' of the US all these years, Manila has gained only a handful of second-hand weapons and an empty sense of security, let alone any real enhancement of its army's combat capability." The insulting tone came after a commentary on China's official news agency Xinhua earlier this year likened the Philippines to a "crying baby" for seeking international support against Beijing's island-building, denouncing its efforts as "pathetic".

In an interview with AFP last week, Philippine President Benigno Aquino said the world should fear China's actions in the disputed sea, warning they could lead to military conflict.

Philippine military chief General Gregorio Catapang on Monday released what he said were satellite photos of intense recent Chinese construction over seven reefs and shoals in the Spratly archipelago, reinforcing images from a US-based company earlier this month.

China rejects criticism of its reclamation and construction works and asserts it has no need to justify activity on its sovereign territory.