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China urges Philippines to make the “rational choice” over maritime tensions in the South China Sea

China has urged the Philippines to make the “rational choice” over maritime tensions in the South China Sea following Manila’s recent efforts to challenge Beijing’s claims in the waters.

China claims sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea, which overlaps with the waters of Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei, Taiwan and the Philippines. The waters are believed to sit atop vast reserves of oil and gas.

Earlier this month, the Philippine Coast Guard released videos purportedly showing Chinese ships blasting water cannons at Philippine boats. Vessels from the two sides also collided during tense clashes at Second Thomas Shoal, where a handful of Filipino troops are stationed on a grounded warship.

“We hope that the Philippines can make a rational choice, follow the effective way of getting along with neighbors, and work with China to properly handle and manage the current maritime situation,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Wang Wenbin at a regular press conference on Thursday.

During a phone call with his Philippine counterpart, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that “China-Philippines relations face serious difficulty and the root cause lies in the Philippines’ change of policy and position, refusing to honor its commitment and repeated provocations that undermine China’s legitimate and lawful rights and interests. The bilateral relationship is now at a crossroads. Where it will go depends on what choice will be made. The Philippines must be very prudent about it,” a readout by China’s Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday.

The ministry also blamed Manila for what it called changing the Philippines’ longstanding policy stance, reneging on its own commitments, continuing to provoke and stir trouble at sea, and undermining China’s legal rights.

Wang said China’s position is consistent and clear without any change.

“Our commitment to properly managing disputes through dialogue and consultation has not changed… Our resolve to safeguard our sovereignty and legitimate rights and interests has not changed and will not change,” Wang said.

China has constructed several artificial islands over the past few years in the Spratly archipelago in the South China Sea, a move that has drawn harsh criticism from the Philippines – a among others – and its ally Washington.

“We hope that the Philippines will decide rationally, follow the effective way for neighbors to get along with each other and work with China to properly handle and manage the situation at sea,” Wang said.