BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s Foreign Ministry denounced the Philippine president on Friday for his “outrageous” comments comparing the dispute over the South China Sea with appeasement by the West of Nazi Germany before World War Two.
Philippine President Benigno Aquino, interviewed by the New York Times this week, called for more global support for the Philippines over the territorial issue, comparing it to the failure by the West to support Czechoslovakia against Adolf Hitler’s demands in 1938.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei rejected the comparison, 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 anti-fascist war and a historical contribution which cannot be obliterated,” Hong told a daily news briefing, referring to World War Two.
“Talking about China and the Philippines’ South China Sea dispute in the same breath as World War Two is outrageous and totally unreasonable. China is extremely dissatisfied with what the Philippines’ said.”
China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei all have territorial claims across a waterway that provides 10 percent of the global fisheries catch and carries $5 trillion in ship-borne trade.
China reacted angrily last week to a report in a Japanese newspaper that Beijing was considering setting up a new air defence identification zone in the South China Sea, similar to one it announced last year for the East China Sea.
The report prompted the United States to urge China not to set up such a zone.
Hong said Washington needed to be more responsible and stop spreading rumours put about by “right-wing Japanese forces” about China setting up such a zone in the South China Sea.
“It is extremely irresponsible of the relevant U.S. official to make groundless accusations against China without checking the facts and based on rumours,” he said.
On Wednesday, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Danny Russel said China’s claims in the South China Sea based on the so-called nine-dash line had no apparent basis in international law.
China has fired off a barrage of historical records - known as the nine-dash line - to depict its maritime territorial claims in the South China Sea. The nine-dash line takes in about 90 percent of the 3.5 million sq km (1.35 million sq mi) South China Sea on Chinese maps.
Hong said China’s claims had “developed and been formed during a long historical process”.
Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Ron Popeski