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South China Sea: White House accuses China of ‘bullying’

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As tensions rise, Philippines also warns of 'unfriendly treatment' for foreign ships

WASHINGTON The White House on Tuesday accused China of "bullying tactics" in the increasingly tense waters of the South China Sea and said it would resist Beijing on the dispute.

"China's recent escalation of efforts to intimidate others out of developing resources in the South China Sea is disturbing," President Donald Trump's National Security Adviser John Bolton tweeted.

"The United States stands firmly with those who oppose coercive behaviour and bullying tactics which threaten regional peace and security."

China has been accused of deploying warships, arming island outposts and ramming fishing vessels in the resource-rich sea, which is also contested by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam.

Washington has repeatedly criticised China's attempts to exert growing dominance in the disputed waters, but Mr Bolton's broadside comes as the two economic superpowers face off in a damaging trade war.


In another development, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte warned on Tuesday that foreign ships faced "unfriendly" treatment if they went into Philippines' territorial waters without permission.

The warning comes as Mr Duterte faces critics at home who accuse him of being passive over Chinese provocations in exchange for business ties with Beijing, which have been slow to materialise.

Mr Duterte's frustration over multiple sightings this year of Chinese warships moving within the country's territorial sea was relayed on Tuesday by his spokesman Salvador Panelo.

"All foreign vessels passing our territorial waters must notify and get clearance from the proper government authority well in advance of the actual passage," Mr Panelo said in a statement, quoting Mr Duterte.

"Either we get a compliance in a friendly manner or we enforce it in an unfriendly manner," he added.

Mr Panelo did not refer to China by name, nor elaborate on what that enforcement might entail.

Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told reporters an unfriendly response could involve escorting the unwelcome vessel out of the area.

"There are so many things that we can do to be unfriendly," he said.

Opinion surveys consistently give Mr Duterte a level of domestic approval never seen at this point in a presidency.

The same polls show growing disdain for China over its conduct in the South China Sea and concerns among some Filipinos over an influx of Chinese online gaming workers under Mr Duterte.- AFP, REUTERS