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India on Friday said it opposes unilateral actions seeking to change the status quo by force in South China Sea amid concerns over China’s escalatory moves against the Philippines’ maritime operations in the region.

Tensions between China and the Philippines escalated following a violent clash between their maritime security personnel a few days ago in the South China Sea. “We have always emphasised on adherence to international law, respect for the rules-based order, and resolution of disputes in a peaceful manner,” External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal said.

“Other than that, we also believe that there should not be any incident or approach that destabilises the region,” he said.

Mr Jaiswal also underlined India’s long-held position that the disputes must be resolved peacefully.

“We oppose destabilising or unilateral actions that seek to change the status quo by force or coercion as well. And we underline the need for peaceful settlement of disputes,” he said.

There have been growing global concerns over China’s sweeping claims of sovereignty over all of the South China Sea, a huge source of hydrocarbons.

Several countries in the region including Vietnam, the Philippines and Brunei, have counterclaims.

India and many other democratic countries have been pressing for peaceful settlement of the disputes and for adherence to international law, especially the UNCLOS (UN Convention on the Law of the Sea).

US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan spoke to his Filipino counterpart Eduardo M Ano this week following the fresh tensions in the South China Sea.

Mr Sullivan and Mr Ano discussed shared concerns over China’s “dangerous and escalatory actions against the Philippines’ lawful maritime operations near Second Thomas Shoal in the South China Sea, a White House readout said.

“Mr Sullivan reiterated ironclad US commitment to the US-Philippines Mutual Defence Treaty, which extends to armed attacks on Philippine armed forces, public vessels, or aircraft — to include those of its Coast Guard — anywhere in the South China Sea,” it said.