China on Thursday warned countries with claims in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) not to stir up tensions in the region by bringing in “complicated factors” such as a change in Japan’s pacifist constitution.
In a press conference, Hua Chunying, the spokesperson of China’s foreign ministry, said she hopes Japan would reconsider its plan to let its army play an expanded role in the region.
“We hope that Japan can understand and respect neighboring countries’ legitimate and reasonable concerns on security and pursue a peaceful path,” Hua said.
China has been paying “close attention” to any changes in Japan’s military, Hua said.
Beijing has always been wary of moves to make Japan a military player in the region, having been a victim of Japanese atrocities during World War II.
During his visit to Japan earlier this week, President Benigno Aquino 3rd told Prime Minister Shinzo Abe he supports a constitutional change that will redefine Tokyo’s self-defense stance and allow it to provide military aid to its allies.
“China’s principles and positions have been made clear many times before,” Hua said, adding that Chinese authorities were monitoring Aquino’s remarks in Japan.
She said China has long been committed to resolving territorial and maritime disputes through bilateral negotiation and coordination.
“It is our opinion that relevant countries should show sincerity and move towards the same direction with China, rather than deliberately stir up tension and bring additional complicated factors to the regional situation,” Hua said.
Aquino’s comments are seen as a major shift in attitude in a country that suffered under Japanese occupation in the 1940s, but who now is turning to a former foe in facing a China that is becoming increasingly aggressive in claiming most of the resource-rich region.
China claims about 90 percent of the West Philippine Sea, including islands and waters close to the territories of neighboring countries.
A new map published in China further fortifies its claim on the disputed waters.
The map, published by the state-run news agency Xinhua, marks China’s territory with 10 dash lines drawn close to the coasts of Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippine islands of Palawan and Luzon.
Chinese authorities said that the new Chinese map was published to “better show” China’s territorial claim over the region.
Previously, China had a nine-dash line claim in the region. The new China map has 10 dashes.
On Thursday, Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. belittled the new map, saying it is a mere drawing that has been superseded by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
“As a whole, to put it simply, they just drew that. All of these drawings have already been superseded by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea,” Coloma told reporters.
Coloma recalled that since the reign of Chiang Kai-shek, the Chinese have been drawing lines to mark territories that are not theirs.
He said the old 11-dash line was replaced by the nine-dash line.
The Philippines has filed an arbitration case amid the increasing tensions and China’s construction efforts in the West Philippine Sea.
But Hua said that countries must not “over-read” its publication of new maps that supposedly cover large areas of its neighbors’ territories.
Hua said publishing houses in some regions regularly publish Chinese maps “with the purpose of serving the public.”
There is no need to interpret the new maps more than what it was intended for, Hua said, adding that Beijing’s stand in the West Philippine Sea “is consistent, clear and free of any change.”
WITH CATHERINE S. VALENTE