The Philippines' top diplomat has apologised on Tuesday, May 5, for an expletive-laden tweet demanding China to get out of a disputed area in the South China Sea.
Apologising only to Chinese foreign minister
However, Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., who is known for his occasional blunt remarks, stressed that he was apologising only to his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi.
He said in a tweet: "I won't plead the last provocation as an excuse for losing it; but if Wang Yi is following Twitter, then I'm sorry for hurting his feelings, but his alone."
I won’t plead the last provocation as an excuse for losing it; but if Wang Yi is following Twitter then I’m sorry for hurting his feelings but his alone. It’s been my elusive dream to copy until I attain in mind and manner the elegance of Wang Yi. His opinion alone matters. He… https://t.co/LgvHujxzYc— Teddy Locsin Jr. (@teddyboylocsin) May 4, 2021
Taking it down a peg
In several tweets on Wednesday, May 5, that commented on his latest outburst, Locsin appeared to have taken his emotions down a notch, saying "there is no excuse for bad manners", and that he "must re-earn the friendship of Wang Yi".
He even complimented Wang, praising his "elegance", and his ability to keep his cool "under the worst provocations as in Anchorage".
Locsin even claimed that he sought Wang's advice before he attended the Asean Leaders' Meeting in Indonesia, adding that he "followed it to the letter".
Justified his outburst
In addition, while he admitted that he had "lost it this time", he justified his outburst by saying he was "provoked by the latest grossest territorial violation".
I rather like China’s Wolf Warriors; they’re my pupils in aggressive diplomacy; they must have watched me in action in the UN. I admit the exchanges there—even those with China—were elegant. I lost it this time but then I was provoked by the latest grossest territorial violation. https://t.co/C1vFDQOYJD— Teddy Locsin Jr. (@teddyboylocsin) May 4, 2021
However, he doubled down on the Philippines' claim to "the entirety of the West Philippine Sea and Scarborough Shoal".
I don’t deny China’s claim; it is free to say whatever it wants; but I do insist that the entirety of the West Philippine Sea and Scarborough Shoal belongs to the Philippines not by mere claim but by absolute right and legal victory that, President Duterte said, can never be https://t.co/M8tYl8WGvu— Teddy Locsin Jr. (@teddyboylocsin) May 4, 2021
They didn’t illegally occupy any islands. They took a reef of coral and water and poured sand to make it a sandbar then poured cement to make it a tarmac. Guess where they took the sand from? The Visayas. In yet another way Scarborough is ours: our coral beneath our sand above. https://t.co/QjSkrA2Xva— Teddy Locsin Jr. (@teddyboylocsin) May 4, 2021
Nevertheless, in refuting China's accusation of the Philippines practising "megaphone diplomacy", Locsin promised not to have another "outburst of temper" like the one he had earlier, saying there are "many ways to skin a cat; a cleaver is not the right instrument".
No megaphone; it was an outburst of temper under repeated provocations in close succession by China against its Philippine neighbor which has kept reaching out for a measure of respect. It won’t happen again. Many any ways to skin a cat; a cleaver is not the right instrument. https://t.co/7xWAaAECgj— Teddy Locsin Jr. (@teddyboylocsin) May 4, 2021
Outburst annoyed Duterte
Locsin's apology came in the wake of televised remarks made by Philippine President Duterte on Monday night, May 3.
According to AP, he said: "Just because we have a conflict with China does not mean to say that we have to be rude and disrespectful."
"We have many things to thank China for the help in the past and its assistance now."
His spokesperson had also told reporters at a regular press conference that "only the President can cuss".
Since taking office in 2016, Duterte had pursued friendly ties with China, a country that is crucial to his administration's ambitious infrastructure and investment plans.
He had refrained from criticising China even when Beijing demanded Manila to withdraw navy and coast guard vessels patrolling Philippine waters in the South China Sea, and continued to call China a "good friend".
Philippines' approach China
Duterte's remarks after Locsin's outburst was said to be a tactic that the Philippine government employs with regard to China.
Taipei-based journalist Nick Aspinwall opined on The Diplomat that Manila has "a familiar pattern" of having Duterte's "hawkish cabinet officials" make strong public statements condemning China's actions, while Duterte himself would even it out and bring it home by praising China.
This approach is thought to both satisfy domestic audiences by asserting the Philippines' stance and standing up to China, while also help to retain Chinese economic cooperation.
China urged "basic etiquette"
In response to Locsin's profanity-ridden tweet, China's foreign ministry had urged the Philippines to observe "basic etiquette", Reuters reported.
China also called on the Philippines to refrain from "microphone diplomacy", saying that it cannot change the facts, and only undermines "mutual trust".
In his controversial tweet, Locsin had likened China to "an ugly oaf" that was "forcing [its] attentions on a handsome guy who wants to be a friend".
His tweet had come in the wake of the Philippines foreign ministry protesting the presence of over 200 Chinese vessels at Whitsun Reef that's part of the disputed Spratly Islands, which China and Vietnam also lay claim to.
While China had insisted that the vessels were just fishing boats that were taking shelter from rough seas, and not part of China's maritime militia, photographs of the vessels showed little to no fishing equipment onboard.
Analysts from the U.S. Naval War College had also proven otherwise by pointing out that many vessels were known to be part of China's maritime militia.
While they were first observed on Mar. 21, it was later reported that only a handful of them remain in the area.
Top image of Locsin and Wang on Jan. 16 this year in Manila via Getty Images