Philippine President Benigno Aquino on Friday brushed off a barrage of Chinese insults that were triggered by him comparing China’s rulers with the Nazis, as the two sides traded further angry accusations over a territorial dispute.
China’s state-run Xinhua news agency released a blistering commentary on Wednesday in which it labelled Aquino “amateurish”, “ignorant” and “lame”.
The commentary came a day after Aquino said China’s efforts to seize disputed parts of the South China Sea were similar to Nazi Germany’s actions before the second world war, and called on global leaders not to make the same mistake of appeasement.
“Well, I thank Xinhua because they are re-affirming the validity of our position. As the saying goes, if someone cannot answer an issue, then he resorts to name-calling,” Aquino said when asked for a response to the Xinhua commentary.
“If you are intentionally insulting me, I thank you because it shows the Philippine position is correct.”
In Beijing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei maintained the pressure on Friday, insisting that comparing China’s actions to those of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler were “inconceivable and unreasonable”.
“China is strongly dissatisfied with the relevant remark. We hope that the Philippine side will correct its mistake,” he told a press briefing.
China insists it has sovereign rights over almost all of South China Sea, even waters approaching the coasts of neighbouring countries and down as far south as Borneo.
The Philippines, as well as Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan, also claim parts of the sea, and the disputes have for decades made the waters a potential trigger for military conflict in the region.
Tensions have escalated in recent years as an increasingly muscular China has built up its naval and coast guard presence in the South China Sea, drawing complaints from the Philippines of Chinese bullying.
Hong said the Philippines had created the most problems with its “illegal occupation” of islands in the South China Sea.
But Aquino said the disputes could be resolved if all countries abided by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), to which both China and the Philippines are signatories.
The Philippines launched legal action with a United Nations tribunal last year, asking it to rule if the Chinese South China Sea claim was invalid. China refused to participate in the UN process.