The war of words between China and the Philippines over the South China Sea has ramped up on Twitter, with the Philippines foreign minister demanding Chinese ships “get the f—k out” of disputed waters.
The comments by Teodoro Locsin follow Manila’s protests over what it calls the “illegal” presence of hundreds of Chinese boats inside the Philippines Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
Chinese officials say the vessels at the disputed Whitsun Reef are fishing boats taking refuge from rough seas, but Philippine officials believe the Chinese vessels are manned by militia.
‘You’re like an ugly oaf’
“China, my friend, how politely can I put it? Let me see… O…GET THE F*** OUT,” Mr Locsin said in a tweet on his personal account.
“What are you doing to our friendship? You. Not us. We’re trying. You. You’re like an ugly oaf forcing your attentions on a handsome guy who wants to be a friend; not to father a Chinese province.”
China’s embassy in Manila did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
China claims almost the entire South China Sea, through which about $US3 trillion of ship-borne trade passes each year. In 2016, an arbitration tribunal in The Hague ruled the claim, which Beijing bases on its old maps, was inconsistent with international law.
In a statement on Monday, the Philippine foreign ministry accused China’s coast guard of “shadowing, blocking, dangerous manoeuvres, and radio challenges of the Philippine coast guard vessels”.
On Sunday, the Philippines vowed to continue maritime exercises in its EEZ in the South China Sea in response to a China demand that it stop actions it warned could escalate disputes.
Diplomatic protests proceed ‘diplomacy by Twitter’
As of April 26, the Philippines had filed 78 diplomatic protests to China since President Rodrigo Duterte took office in 2016, foreign ministry data shows.
“Our statements are stronger too because of the more brazen nature of the activities, the number, frequency and proximity of intrusions,” Marie Yvette Banzon-Abalos, executive director for strategic communications at the foreign ministry, said.
Mr Duterte for the most part has pursued warmer ties with China in exchange for Beijing’s promises of billions of dollars in investment, aid and loans.
While the Philippine leader still considers China “a good friend”, he said last week: “There are things that are not really subject to a compromise.”