Philippines official calls for removal of Chinese diplomats over South China Sea phone call leak amid tensions News
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Philippines official calls for removal of Chinese diplomats over South China Sea phone call leak amid tensions

A senior Philippine national security official called Friday for the immediate removal of Chinese diplomats believed to be responsible for a reported leak of a phone call between one of the diplomats and a Filipino admiral about tensions in the South China Sea. This comes just over a week following alleged Chinese harassment and use of water cannons against a Filipino humanitarian mission en route to Scarborough Shoal, a flashpoint in the region.

National Security Adviser Eduardo Año said he supported a call by Philippine Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro to take action against Chinese embassy individuals in Manila “who claim to have recorded an alleged phone conversation between a Chinese diplomat and a military official,” violating Philippine laws and international diplomatic protocols. Año alleged China’s embassy in Manila had orchestrated “repeated acts of engaging in and dissemination of disinformation, misinformation, and malinformation,” with the objective of sowing discord, division and disunity. “Those individuals in the Chinese embassy … and those responsible for these malign influence and interference operations must be removed from the country immediately,” Año said.

According to a transcript released by the Manila Times, a Philippine admiral reportedly agreed to China’s suggestion of a “new model,” wherein the Philippines would reduce the number of vessels used in resupply missions to marines stationed at a grounded warship in the disputed Second Thomas Shoal, and provide advance notice to Beijing about these missions. However, the Philippine government has advised the public to exercise caution about believing China’s claims.

China has neither confirmed nor denied the news reports. China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lin Jian said:

The Philippines’ response shows exactly their guilty conscience in the face of facts and evidence and how exasperated and desperate they have become. We ask the Philippines to ensure that Chinese diplomats can carry out their duty normally, and to stop provocations and infringements. The Philippines needs to quit denying the facts and must not make reckless moves that will only backfire on the Philippines itself.

The Chinese coast guard has used powerful water cannons and other risky maneuvers, injuring several Filipino navy personnel and damaging their supply boats in recent months. The Philippine government has regularly summoned Chinese embassy diplomats in Manila to deliver protests.