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China says Philippines enlisted ‘foreign forces’ to patrol South China Sea

BEIJING (Reuters) -The Philippines enlisted “foreign forces” to patrol the South China Sea and has been stirring up trouble since Tuesday, the southern theatre command of China’s military said on Thursday, in an apparent reference to the United States.

The military will maintain high vigilance, resolutely defend national sovereignty and maritime rights and interests, and resolutely safeguard peace and stability in the South China Sea, it said.

Philippine officials have said their military and the U.S. launched joint patrols on Tuesday in waters near Taiwan, a democratically governed island that China claims as its own, raising the possibility of further tensions with China.

“China has made clear its position to the Philippines and the U.S. that the Philippine-U.S. joint patrols must not undermine China’s territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said on Wednesday.

The Philippine foreign ministry and the national security adviser’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Relations have soured between China and the Philippines over the South China Sea under Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr as Manila pivots towards closer ties with the U.S., which supports the Southeast Asian nation in its maritime disputes with China.

(Reporting by Ella Cao, Bernard Orr and Liz Lee in Beijing, Neil Jerome Morales in Manila; Editing by Edmund Klamann)

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