Philippine defence chief says Taiwan Strait situation an ‘internal matter’

By Thomson Reuters May 24, 2024 | 1:32 AM

MANILA (Reuters) – The situation in the Taiwan Strait, where China has carried out military exercises, is an “internal matter,” Philippine Defence Secretary Gilberto Teodoro said on Friday, declining to comment on drills that Taiwan has condemned.

China’s military conducted a second day of war games around Taiwan on Friday, with drills to test its ability to “seize power” and control key areas. Beijing has said the exercises were launched to punish Taiwan’s new president, Lai Ching-te.

“I will not comment on anything on the Taiwan Strait, as that’s an internal matter for them,” Teodoro told reporters on the sidelines of a Philippine Navy anniversary event.

China views democratically governed Taiwan as its own territory and denounces Lai as a “separatist”. It strongly criticised his inauguration speech on Monday, in which he urged Beijing to cease threats and said the two sides of the strait were “not subordinate to each other”.

Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr drew China’s ire in January when he congratulated Lai after winning an election, referring to him as president.

China in response summoned the Philippine ambassador and warned the country “not to play with fire”, calling the message from Marcos gross interference and a serious violation of the “One China” principle.

Marcos later defended his remarks, stressing that his message was “common courtesy” and he did not endorse Taiwan independence. U.S. ally Manila has said it wanted to recognise the Philippines and Taiwan’s “mutual interests”, including 200,000 Filipino workers on the island.

(Reporting by Karen Lema; Editing by Martin Petty and Gerry Doyle)