China blasts new US-Philippine military cooperation

BEIJING (AP) — China will “resolutely defend” its interests in the face of stepped-up U.S.-Philippine military cooperation, the Defense Ministry said, accusing the two allies of militarizing the region and harboring a “Cold War mentality.”

The ministry’s comments came shortly after the announcement Thursday that the U.S. would send troops and planes to the Philippines for more frequent rotations and will increase joint sea and air patrols with Philippine forces in the South China Sea.

In a move likely to further anger Beijing, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter says he will be visiting an aircraft carrier in the South China Sea during his current visit to the region that does not include a stop in China.

“The joint patrols between the United States and the Philippines in the South China Sea are militarizing the region and are non-beneficial to regional peace and stability,” said a statement posted to the ministry’s website late Thursday.

“The Chinese military will pay close attention to the situation, and resolutely defend China’s territorial sovereignty and maritime interests,” it said.

China claims virtually the entire South China Sea as its territory and is building manmade islands there topped with airstrips and other infrastructure. The Philippines, Vietnam and others also claim territory controlled or claimed by China and increased military and coast guard deployments by all sides are seen as increasing the potential for conflict.

The statement also referenced China’s long-standing opposition to U.S. military alliances in the region which it regards as a form of unwelcome interloping that challenges its desired status as the pre-eminent military power in the Asia-Pacific.

“Strengthening the U.S.-Philippine military alliance, boosting front-line military deployments and staging targeted joint military exercises is a sign of a Cold War mentality that is unbeneficial to peace and stability in the South China Sea,” the statement said.