Malacañang just shrugged off US general Herbert Carlisle’s statement criticizing the Philippines and Japan for its comments comparing China’s assertiveness in the region to events in pre-war Europe.
In an article in the Bloomberg published on Monday, Carlisle said that the recent comments by President Benigno Aquino 3rd and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe are “not helpful,” saying that comparisons could further escalate tension in the region.
He has called for a “de-escalation of tensions” which he said “has got to be a multilateral approach and it’s not just one country that needs to de-escalate.”
Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr., however, said that Aquino was simply stating the country’s position, which calls for “international solidarity” on the issue of territorial disputes.
“President Aquino simply called attention to the need for international solidarity in asserting the primacy of the rule of law to deter expansionism in West Philippine Sea [South China Sea],” Coloma said in a statement to the media.
Coloma was referring to Aquino’s statements in an interview with the New York Times, wherein the President likened the Philippines’ situation to that of Czechoslovakia’s during World War II.
The latter lost Sudetenland in 1938 to the demands of a much stronger Germany, because of what President Aquino reasoned was the West’s failure to support it.
Aquino was quoted by the Times as saying, “At what point do you say, ‘Enough is enough?’ Well, the world has to say it — remember that the Sudetenland was given in an attempt to appease Hitler to prevent World War II.”
Abe, on one hand, was quoted as saying current tensions in East Asia are akin to those between Britain and Germany on the eve of World War I.
Meanwhile, Coloma acknowledged that Carlisle is a military commander whose view differs from that of heads of state.
“It’s understandable for a military commander to adopt a viewpoint that’s different from a head of state’s perspective,” he said.
The long-standing territorial dispute between China and the Philippines over portions of the South China Sea has been reignited in recent years by tense confrontations between Chinese and Philippine vessels in two disputed shoals – Scarborough and Ayungin – off Manila’s western coasts.
Manila challenged China’s massive claim before a tribunal that the United Nations established in The Hague, Netherlands where the Philippines will submit its memorial or merits of its case in March.
China, which maintains “indisputable sovereignty” over the South China Sea, refused to join the proceedings, dismissing the Philippine case as groundless and lacking in legal merit.
Other claimants to the South China Sea are Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan. CATHERINE S. VALENTE