MANILA (AFP) - The Philippines on Wednesday chided China for its "insecurity" over its claim to the South China Sea, after a Beijing-based tabloid dubbed the country a "cute little submissive" of the United States.
The response from President Benigno Aquino's spokesman Edwin Lacierda came after the Global Times newspaper - with close ties to the ruling Communist Party - featured an editorial Tuesday saying it was "laughable" imagining Philippine personnel "stumbling after US forces".
"We don't understand where this insecurity of the Chinese towards us is coming from. Where do we have the wherewithal to compete against China as a superpower?" Lacierda said.
He defended the massive military exercises between the Philippines and its main defence ally the United States that began this week, saying these were regular events not related to the territorial dispute with China.
He said the exercises were more than just wargames and have shown their benefits through the US assistance provided after Super Typhoon Haiyan struck in 2013, leaving at least 7,350 people dead or missing.
"China wants to make their own comments. That's their opinion. But we are not bound by their opinion and we certainly do not agree with how they described us," he added.
Lacierda dismissed calls to engage China in bilateral talks, saying other countries were also involved in the dispute.
China's Global Times published the remarks after the Philippines expressed increasing alarm over China's claim to most of the South China Sea, a vital sealane and valuable fishing ground.
The Philippines has also said Chinese ships recently used water cannon to drive Filipino fishermen away from a disputed shoal - just 220 kilometres from one of the sites of the 10-day wargames.
Aside from improving defence ties with the United States, the Philippines has been seeking greater US military aid in the face of Chinese "aggressiveness" in disputed waters.
China claims sovereignty over most of the South China Sea, including areas just off the coasts of other Asian nations, using vague demarcation lines that first appeared on Chinese maps in the 1940s.
The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have overlapping claims.