BEIJING: China supports the Philippine government’s “anti-terrorism” operations against Islamist militants, the Chinese foreign ministry said Monday after US special forces provided support to Filipino troops.
The US Embassy in Manila said Saturday that special forces were assisting the Philippine military with ongoing operations in the southern city of Marawi, which insurgents overran on May 23.
“Terrorism is the common enemy of mankind. China understands and firmly supports [Philippine President Rodrigo] Duterte’s leadership and its government in fighting terrorism,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a regular press briefing.
“We support these antiterrorism operations,” he said.
Lu was asked about China’s views on the assistance provided by Washington to the Philippine military.
“On the operations launched by the Philippine government on their territory, in principle, we welcome the constructive support of the international community, on the basis of the respect of the Philippine government’s own will, and of the Philippines’ sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Lu said.
The announcement of US help in the embattled southern region of Mindanao comes after Duterte has sought to reduce the Philippines’ reliance on the United States and build much closer ties with China and Russia.
Under Duterte, the Philippines has moved to ease tensions with Beijing over rival territorial claims in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
Malaysia, Indonesia seek discussions
Also on Monday, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said Indonesia wants a conference together with Malaysia to discuss the Marawi crisis.
“The last 10 months have been very good conversations, communication-sharing. In fact, the Indonesian foreign minister is proposing a meeting, a small conference wherein we’ll be able to talk about the situation and what we can do together with Malaysia,” Cayetano told reporters at Rizal Park in Manila following the 119th Independence Day rites.
“At this point, let me thank the Indonesian foreign minister for caring about what is happening in the Philippines and being concerned and trying to put this together,” he added.
The meeting, details of which will be announced this week, will gather the three countries’ top diplomats, Cayetano said.
The military had said foreign terrorists, including Indonesians and Malaysians, have joined the Maute group in the attack on Marawi City that forced President Duterte to declare martial rule last May 23.
Last week, the Indonesian defense minister claimed there were 1,200 IS fighters in the Philippines.
Fighters from the Indonesian terror group Jemaah Amsharut Daulah (JAD) are said to have joined the Maute group. The Philippine military earlier reported that two Indonesians and two Malaysians were killed in the Marawi clashes.
The United States has placed JAD in its counter-terrorism watch list because of its ties with the IS.