Editorial & Opinion

Sea row brings to mind Hitler-West pact

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China stood reality on its head in its response to President Aquino’s call for more global support for the Philippines in resisting Beijing’s territorial claims in the South China Sea, drawing a parallel to the West’s failure to support Czechoslovakia against Hitler’s demand for Czech land in 1938.


The Chinese foreign ministry on Friday denounced Mr. Aquino for his “outrageous” remarks comparing the dispute in the South China Sea with the appeasement by the West of Nazi Germany before World War II.

Mr. Aquino made his remarks in an interview with The New York Times in Malacañang.

Disregarding all semblance of diplomatic amenities and distorting logic and historical evidence, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hong Lei rejected the comparison and tried to turn the tables on Manila, saying it was the Philippines that was illegally occupying Chinese islands in the South China Sea.

“China is a country which resolutely upholds international justice and made huge sacrifices for victory during the global antifascist war and a historical contribution which cannot be obliterated,” Hong told reporters in a Beijing news briefing.

“Talking about China and the Philippines in the same breath as World War II is outrageous and totally unreasonable. China is extremely dissatisfied with what the Philippines said.”


Concrete evidence

The Philippines could claim, with concrete evidence, that superior Chinese forces have grabbed and occupied Philippine territories within its international exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea, closer to the Philippines than to China.

In the interview, the President called for international support in resisting Chinese claims and bullying pressures by a larger and more militarily powerful neighbor.

The issue of appeasing China’s claims by ceding disputed territories to Beijing - the way the West capitulated to Hitler’s demand to possess Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia in 1938 to avert war - came into the picture.

Mr. Aquino said in the interview that the Philippines, like Czechoslovakia, faces demands to surrender territory piecemeal to a much stronger foreign power and needs robust foreign support for the international rule of law, if it is to resist.

According to The New York Times, Mr. Aquino said: “If we say yes to something we believe is wrong, what guarantee is there that the wrong will not be further exacerbated down the line? … At what point do you say, ‘Enough is enough’? Well, the world has to say it - remember that the Sudetenland was given in an attempt to appease Hitler to prevent World War II.”


Don’t appease China

Mr. Aquino called on world leaders not to make the mistake of appeasing China as it seeks to cement control over contested waters and islands in the strategically vital South China Sea.


His remarks drew fierce Chinese response, branding him “ignorant and amateurish.”

Agence France-Presse reported that the Chinese foreign ministry earlier released an angry commentary that heaped scorn on Mr. Aquino for his remarks about the pressure being applied by China to the Philippines on the contested territories.

The Chinese commentary, released by the official Xinhua news agency, bristled with insults on Mr. Aquino.

“Philippine President Benigno S. Aquino III, who has taken an inflammatory approach while dealing with maritime disputes with China, has never been a great candidate for a wise statesman in the region,” the commentary said.

“But his latest reported attack against China, in which he senselessly compared his northern neighbor to Nazi Germany, exposed his true colors as an amateurish politician who was ignorant both of history and reality.”


Chinese bullying

This comment on Mr. Aquino’s knowledge of history and competence as a national leader is utterly irrelevant and patronizing, and insults the Filipino people. China should leave it to the Filipinos to pass judgments on the competence of their elected leader, for all his faults.

What is tremendously relevant to Filipinos is the incontrovertible reality that China has been steadily increasing its military and coast guard presence in the sea in recent years to assert its claims, causing tensions to rise and fueling concerns in the Philippines about perceived Chinese bullying.

The Philippines claims Chinese vessels have, since 2012, occupied a rich fishing area called Scarborough Shoal, which is about 220 kilometers off this country’s main island and about 650 km from the nearest major Chinese landmass.

Last year, the Philippines filed a legal action with the United Nations asking it to rule that Beijing’s South China Sea claim is invalid. China has refused to participate in the UN process.


Strongest yet

According to The New York Times, Mr. Aquino’s expression of alarm is among the strongest yet from Asian heads of state about China’s military buildup and territorial ambitions, and the second time in recent weeks that an Asian leader has volunteered a comparison to the prelude to world wars.

The newspaper reported that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan caused a stir at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, last month when he noted that Britain and Germany went to war in 1914 even though they had close economic ties - much as Japan and China have now.

Japan has been locked in an increasingly tense standoff with China over uninhabited islands in the East China Sea.


Even South Korea, which has been quieter about Chinese claims, expressed alarm last year after China announced it had the right to police skies above a vast area of ocean, including areas claimed by Japan and South Korea. Inquirer.net

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