Don't use Asean as proxy in sea row: Manila

MANILA • The Philippines stayed away from a dispute brewing between the United States and China over the South China Sea, as it again urged the superpowers not to use Asean as a "proxy" for their rivalry.

National Defence Department spokesman Arsenio Andolong said in a statement that the Trump administration's vow to prevent China from taking over territory in international waters in the South China Sea "is a concern that should be resolved between China and the US".

But he also urged both nations yesterday to "respect the maritime rights of the Philippines by informing (Manila) of their activities within our exclusive economic zone".

Mr Andolong reiterated Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana's statement on Monday that China and the US "should not use the countries in Asean as a proxy for their rivalry". The Philippines is the current Asean chair.

"As host... we will have to remind our friends, firmly if necessary, not to use Asean as a proxy for their rivalry," he said during a security forum in Singapore.

"We will reaffirm the unity and solidarity of Asean amid this emerging superpower competition. We will also work for the finalisation of a binding code of conduct for the South China Sea," said Mr Lorenzana.

Raul Dancel

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 25, 2017, with the headline 'Don't use Asean as proxy in sea row: Manila'. Print Edition | Subscribe