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Philippines calls for expulsion of Beijing’s diplomats as South China Sea row worsens

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The Philippines’ national security adviser on Friday called for the expulsion of Chinese diplomats over an alleged leaked telephonic conversation with a Filipino military official as territorial tensions continue to increase, Nikkei Asia reported.

This comes a week after China harassed and shot water cannons at a Filipino humanitarian mission headed to Scarborough Shoal, a flashpoint in the region.

Eduardo Ano, Philippines national security adviser, said, “The Chinese Embassy’s repeated acts of engaging in and dissemination of disinformation, misinformation, and malinformation — now releasing spurious transcripts or recordings of purported conversations between officials of the host country — should not be allowed to pass unsanctioned or without serious penalty.”

The leaked phone conversation surfaced earlier this week, purporting to show a Chinese diplomat and a Filipino admiral discussing a dispute over the South China Sea that saw the Filipino official agreeing to concessions with China, Nikkei Asia reported.

China’s foreign ministry immediately responded to Ano’s statements, saying, they “solemnly demand that the Philippines ensure Chinese diplomats perform their duties normally.”

Earlier this week, Philippine Defense Minister Gilbert Teodoro said that if the Chinese Embassy kept a recording of someone in the country, “they are admitting to have violated Philippine law” and the actions of the Chinese embassy “violate international relations and the law.”

Following the last week water cannon’s attack, the Philippines summoned a Chinese envoy and accused China of “harassment” and “dangerous manoeuvres,” Al Jazeera reported.

The Philippines Ministry of Foreign Affairs summoned China’s deputy chief of mission Zhou Zhiyong.

Besides the South China Sea dispute, diplomatic relations came to a head in the past weeks as China kept referencing a “secret agreement” with the Philippines.

Under this alleged agreement, Manila vowed not to repair or build structures at Second Thomas Shoal in the disputed Spratly Islands, which the Philippines effectively controls, as reported by Nikkei Asia.

Tensions between China and the Philippines have escalated over the Scarborough Shoal as Manila has taken a more asserted approach in disputed areas.

Approximately 220 kilometers off the coast of the Philippines and within its exclusive economic zone (EEZ), the shoal is a traditional fishing ground used by multiple nations and located close to important shipping channels. Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), an EEZ extends about 370 km from a country’s coast.

China has claimed almost the entire South China Sea rejecting claims from other nations, including the Philippines, and an international ruling that states that these claims have no legal basis, according to an Al Jazeera report. Brunei, Malaysia, and Vietnam also claim the parts of the sea.