Philippines labels China as an ‘existential threat’ in South China Sea dispute

The Philippines has declared China an “existential threat” in the South China Sea, highlighting escalating tensions over territorial disputes. Manila urges international support to counter Beijing’s aggressive actions and safeguard regional sovereignty and maritime rights.

The Philippines has escalated its rhetoric regarding China’s actions in the South China Sea, describing Beijing as an “existential threat” to regional sovereignty and security. This declaration reflects growing concerns over China’s assertive maritime claims and military activities in a region critical to international trade and security.

Philippine Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana made the statement in a recent address, highlighting the escalating tensions between the two nations over the South China Sea, where both countries have overlapping territorial claims. “China’s continued militarization and territorial encroachment in the South China Sea pose an existential threat not only to the Philippines but to the broader region,” Lorenzana said.

China’s expansive claims in the South China Sea, demarcated by the so-called “nine-dash line,” encompass a significant portion of the sea, including areas that the Philippines and other Southeast Asian nations consider part of their exclusive economic zones (EEZs). Despite a 2016 ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague rejecting China’s claims, Beijing has continued to assert its dominance in the region, constructing military installations on artificial islands and deploying naval forces to enforce its claims.

Lorenzana emphasised that China’s actions threaten not only the sovereignty of neighbouring nations but also the freedom of navigation and overflight in one of the world’s busiest maritime corridors. The South China Sea is a vital route for global trade, with approximately one-third of global shipping passing through its waters annually. The Philippines has repeatedly protested China’s activities, which include the deployment of coast guard vessels and maritime militias in disputed areas, often leading to confrontations with Philippine fishermen and patrol ships.

The Philippines has called for stronger international cooperation to counter China’s aggressive actions. Lorenzana urged other nations to uphold international maritime laws and support regional efforts to maintain peace and stability. “We cannot afford to let China’s aggressive posturing go unchecked. The international community must stand together to defend the principles of sovereignty and freedom of navigation,” he added.

In response, China has defended its actions, stating that its activities in the South China Sea are legitimate and conducted within its sovereign rights. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin reiterated that China seeks a peaceful resolution through dialogue but remains firm on its territorial claims. “China’s sovereignty over the South China Sea islands and adjacent waters is indisputable. We urge the Philippines to respect this and engage in constructive dialogue,” Wang said.