Manila: Philippine ex-president Fidel Ramos said on Wednesday that China`s recent assertiveness over sea disputes was motivated by a desire to challenge US power, as he predicted more tensions to come.
On a visit to Washington, Ramos described China and the United States as "shadow-boxing" over the South China Sea and East China Sea where Beijing has growing friction with countries including the Philippines, Vietnam and Japan.
"China`s proximate aim, it seems to me, is to limit American freedom of access" and "erode the credibility of Washington`s security guarantees to the East Asian states, including and especially the Philippines," Ramos, who was president from 1992 to 1998, said at the Heritage Foundation think-tank.
"We, where we come from, expect South China Sea tensions to continue because the root cause is really China`s perceived need to break out from under the strategic dominance of the Western allies," Ramos said.
However, Ramos said he did not expect military confrontation due to the vast US military superiority over China. He called for governments to shift away spending from the military to fighting "real enemies" such as poverty.
Ramos was visiting Washington as part of 60th anniversary commemorations of the Mutual Defence Treaty between Washington and its former colony. Elsewhere in the region, the United States also has security pacts with Australia, Japan, South Korea and Thailand.
Ramos welcomed the role of the US military in Asia, saying it had provided security to Asia and allowed it to grow economically.
Amid the tension with China, Philippine President Benigno Aquino has allocated 11 billion pesos (USD 252 million) to upgrade his country`s Navy, whose flagship vessel dates from World War II.