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National Security Adviser Eduardo Ano has called for the expulsion of Chinese diplomats accused of leaking a phone call, sparking a diplomatic row between China and the Philippines. The leaked call reportedly involved a conversation between a Filipino admiral and a Chinese diplomat discussing supply transportation conditions to a Philippine-occupied shoal in the disputed South China Sea. Ano criticized the dissemination of disinformation by the Chinese Embassy, demanding that those responsible be removed from the country immediately. The Chinese government and embassy in Manila have not confirmed or denied the reports, but China has demanded that the Philippines stop provocation and ensure that Chinese diplomats can perform their duties.

The escalating tensions between China and the Philippines have been fueled by hostilities between Chinese and Philippine coast guard ships at the Second Thomas Shoal and Scarborough Shoal. Chinese coast guard ships have used water cannons, lasers, and dangerous maneuvers that have led to minor collisions, injuries to Filipino navy personnel, and damage to supply boats. The Philippine government has protested these actions by summoning Chinese embassy diplomats in Manila. President Joe Biden and his administration have reiterated the U.S.’s commitment to defending the Philippines, a longtime treaty ally, in the event of an armed attack in the South China Sea.

National Security Adviser Eduardo Ano has voiced support for Defense Chief’s call for Manila’s foreign office to take action against Chinese embassy individuals behind the leaked phone call. Ano condemned the dissemination of disinformation, misinformation, and mal-information by the Chinese Embassy, calling for consequences for such actions. The Department of Foreign Affairs has not indicated whether it will act on Ano’s demands, and it remains unclear if the veracity of the leaked phone conversation has been confirmed by Philippine authorities. The Chinese government has accused the Philippines of lacking confidence in the face of facts and evidence, urging the country to ensure that Chinese diplomats can perform their duties without infringement or provocation.

The South China Sea dispute involves multiple countries with overlapping territorial claims, including China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and Taiwan. The potential for a major escalation of conflicts in the region has raised concerns about drawing U.S. forces into a confrontation with China. The U.S. has reiterated its commitment to defend the Philippines in the event of armed aggression, highlighting the strategic importance of the South China Sea as a key trade route. The ongoing tensions between China and the Philippines underscore the complex geopolitical dynamics in the region and the risks of military conflict in the disputed waters.

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