Philippine security chief demands immediate expulsion of Chinese diplomats over alleged leaked conversation

A top Philippine security official demanded Friday the immediate expulsion of Chinese diplomats allegedly behind a reported leak of a phone conversation between one of the diplomats and a Filipino admiral about South China Sea disputes that have strained diplomatic ties. National Security Adviser Eduardo Ano said he supported a call by the Philippine defense chief for Manila’s foreign office to take action against Chinese embassy individuals in Manila “who are said to have recorded an alleged phone conversation between a Chinese diplomat and a military official” in violation of Philippine laws and international diplomatic protocols. Two Manila newspapers cited a Chinese Embassy source as saying that in a recorded call with a Chinese diplomat in January, a Filipino admiral agreed to a new way of transporting supplies to a Philippine-occupied shoal in the disputed waters. It required Manila to notify Beijing for such offshore missions and promise not to bring construction materials. “Those individuals in the embassy responsible for violating Philippine laws and the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and those responsible for these malign influence and interference operations must be removed from the country immediately,” Ano said in a strongly worded statement. “The Chinese Embassy’s repeated acts of engaging in and dissemination of disinformation, misinformation, and mal-information – now releasing spurious transcripts or recordings of purported conversations between officials of the host country – should not be allowed to pass unsanctioned or without serious penalty,” Ano said. It was not immediately clear from Ano’s statement if Philippine authorities had verified the news reports or if the phone conversation really took place. The Department of Foreign Affairs did not say if it was considering Ano’s call. The Chinese government and its embassy in Manila have not confirmed the news reports nor denied them. In Beijing, China Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lin Jian said the “Philippines’ attitude just proves that they lack confidence in the face of facts and evidence and have reached the point where they are frustrated and have no bottom line.” China solemnly demands that the Philippines ensures that Chinese diplomats can perform their duties, stops infringement and provocation and does not deny the facts, act indiscreetly or hurt itself by its own actions,” he said. The escalating word war and diplomatic row have been sparked by hostilities between Chinese and Philippine coast guard ships and other vessels since last year at the Second Thomas Shoal and Scarborough Shoal. The Chinese coast guard has used powerful water cannons, a military-grade laser and dangerous maneuvers that have caused minor collisions, injured several Filipino navy personnel and damaged their supply boats. The Philippine government has repeatedly summoned Chinese embassy diplomats in Manila to hand over protests. President Joe Biden and his administration have repeatedly warned that the United States is obligated to defend the Philippines, its longtime treaty ally, if Filipino forces, ships and aircraft come under an armed attack, including in the South China. Aside from China and the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have had overlapping claims in the busy seaway, a key trade route where many fear a major escalation of the conflicts could draw U.S. forces on a collision course with China military.