The US, Japan, and the Philippines released a statement rejecting China’s maritime claims Joe Biden (C) heads to a trilateral meeting with Fumio Kishida (R) and Ferdinand Marcos Jr. (L) at the White House in Washington DC, April 11, 2024 © AFP / Andrew Caballero-Reynolds

Beijing has condemned the US, Japan, and the Philippines for “smearing and attacking” China ahead of a three-way summit in Washington on Friday. Before the meeting, the three countries released a statement calling China’s maritime claims “unlawful” and accusing Beijing of “dangerous and aggressive behavior.”

US President Joe Biden hosted Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Filipino President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. at the White House on Friday, for a summit billed as a reminder that American support for Japan and the Philippines is “ironclad,” in the words of Biden.

Before Kishida and Marcos’ arrival in Washington, the three leaders released a statement criticizing China for “dangerous and aggressive behavior in the South China Sea” and rejecting its “militarization” of and “unlawful maritime claims” in the contested waterway.

At a press briefing in Beijing on Friday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said that China opposes “any acts that stoke and drive up tensions and harm other countries’ strategic security and interests.”

US and China hold ‘direct and clear’ military talks US and China hold ‘direct and clear’ military talks

“Japan and the Philippines have every right to develop normal relations with other countries, but they should not introduce bloc confrontation into this region, still less engage in trilateral cooperation at the expense of other countries’ interests,” Mao continued.

Despite claims by Washington that the summit was not aimed at China, Mao declared that “the answer is right there in the trilateral statement. What else could it be if it’s not a smear and attack against China?”

The statement explicitly described the Second Thomas Shoal – a submerged reef claimed by the Philippines in the late 1990s – as sitting within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone. It also accused China of seeking “to undermine Japan’s longstanding and peaceful administration of the Senkaku Islands,” an uninhabited archipelago near Taiwan annexed from China by imperial Japan in 1895.

“China has indisputable sovereignty” over both of these territories, Mao said. “Our activities in the East China Sea and South China Sea are lawful, justified and beyond reproach,” she continued, adding that Beijing considers the 2016 decision by an international tribunal to recognize the Philippines’ claim to the shoal to be “illegal” and “groundless.”

The US is not a party to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, under which the tribunal was established.

Aside from its territorial disputes with Japan and the Philippines, China has ongoing maritime disputes with Brunei, Malaysia, and Vietnam.

A week before Friday’s summit, the US, Japan, and the Philippines conducted a joint “freedom of navigation” exercise in the South China Sea. These exercises – which involve sending warships through China’s exclusive economic zone – have been repeatedly condemned by Beijing as “provocations.”

According to Friday’s statement, the three countries will hold a similar exercise later this year. (RT)