PLA patrols South China Sea amid strained ties with the Philippines over Taiwan and territorial disputes

The command covers the southern provinces of Guangdong, Hainan, Hunan, Yunnan, and Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region as well as the coastal regions of Hong Kong and Macau.

China warns Philippines on planned military expansion near Taiwan

The exercise came a day after the Chinese foreign ministry warned Manila against “ playing with fire” in response to news that Philippine Defence Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jnr had ordered an increase in troops and construction on Batanes, the island country’s northernmost province, which is less than 200km (124 miles) from Taiwan.

It also came as the PLA Daily said the military in different theatres would stay vigilant and vowed to ensure national security and social stability during the Lunar New Year holiday.

Foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said on Thursday that Taiwan was “at the centre” of Beijing’s core interests and represented an “insurmountable red line and bottom line”.

Beijing sees Taiwan as part of its territory to be reunited by force if necessary. Most countries, including the Philippines and the United States, do not recognise Taiwan as an independent state. However, Washington is opposed to any attempt to take the self-governed island by force and is committed to supplying it with weapons.

“The Philippine side should have a clear understanding of it, act prudently and refrain from playing with fire on the issue of Taiwan, so as to avoid being exploited by others and leading to their own detriment,” Wang said.

He added that China and the Philippines shared a long history of friendship and should treat each other with mutual respect on issues such as national sovereignty and territorial integrity and avoid interfering in each other’s internal affairs.


Philippines sets up ‘game changer’ monitoring station on island in disputed South China Sea

Philippines sets up ‘game changer’ monitoring station on island in disputed South China Sea

Weeks ago, China’s assistant foreign minister Nong Rong and the Philippine foreign affairs undersecretary Theresa Lazaro met in Shanghai, where Lazaro reiterated that Manila adhered to the one-China policy and would continue to implement it, according to a statement from the Chinese foreign ministry.

The two sides also agreed to improve maritime communication and to properly manage conflicts and differences through friendly talks regarding the contested waters.

Last year, amid frayed ties with Beijing, Manila doubled the number of Philippine military bases that US forces can access, including three facing Taiwan.

A “2+2” bilateral meeting between US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin and their Philippine counterparts Enrique Manalo and Teodoro is set to take place in March. The South China Sea is expected to be high on the agenda.


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