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Updated February 29th, 2024 at 21:10 IST

Philippines Envoy Says South China Sea ‘Real Flashpoint’ in Asia, Not Taiwan

“The real problem and real flashpoint, which is why I’m telling you how critical it is for us, real flashpoint is in the West Philippine Sea,” Romualdez said.

Reported by: Digital Desk
China US South China Sea Philippines
Philippines boat and the Chinese Coastguard ship. | Image:AP
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It is the South China Sea and not Taiwan that is the actual “flashpoint” that could lead to an armed conflict in the Asian region, the Philippines’ top envoy in the United States said on Thursday. “All hell will break lose if the US decides to invoke the mutual security treaty with Manila,” Ambassador Jose Manuel Romualdez said, warning about the growing maritime tensions between China and and smaller island nations, as well as the US in the contentious waters.

“The real problem and the real flashpoint, which is why I’m telling you how critical it is for us. The real flashpoint is in the West Philippine Sea,” Romualdez said, according to a South China Morning Post paper. The latter warned that the tensions will spiral into a full-fledged military campaign, a prospect that he added, is far more alarming than Beijing claiming sovereignty on Taiwan. The Mutual Defense Treaty between the Republic of the Philippines and the United States of America (MDT) was signed on August 30, 1951, and states that both nations will support each other militarily of Manila is attacked or threatened.

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Chinese President Xi Jinping “was not going to make a move unless he is absolutely sure that he can militarily take over Taiwan,” the ambassador noted. He stressed that tensions were at an all-time high in the West Philippine Sea, a maritime region that Manila demarcates as the eastern parts of the South China Sea within its exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

China’s coast guard blocks the Philippine's boat. (AP)

The Philippines accuses the Chinese coastguard of belligerence and provocations in the hotly-contested sea by infringing their sovereign territory. On several occasions, as the Filipino boats and Chinese coastguards came face-to-face, the PLAN personnel fired water cannons at the Philippine boats. Just recently on February 21, the Philippine Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources was attacked by the Chinese coastguards as it traversed the Scarborough Shoal, the disputed traditional fishing ground for several countries in the South China Sea. The atoll has been claimed by the Republic of the Philippines citing the 1734 Velarde map.

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Philippine ambassador to the United States, Romualdez, warned that the repeated skirmishes between Philippine and Chinese vessels in the South China Sea might trigger a significant conflict at any moment and it wouldn’t be the Taiwan Strait that will lead to a military confrontation. This conflict bears potential to transform into a global conflict, he believes.

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Published February 29th, 2024 at 21:10 IST

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