BEIJING - China should send warships to the Philippines as part of the typhoon disaster relief effort to counter US and Japanese influence, state-run media said Friday.
Beijing and Manila are embroiled in a row over disputed islands, but if the Philippines rejected the warships proposal, that would only "underscore its narrow mind and will be of no loss to China", the Global Times said in an editorial.
An eight-strong flotilla of US vessels, headed by the aircraft carrier USS George Washington, arrived off the Philippines Thursday bearing badly needed equipment, supplies and expertise for the thousands left homeless and hungry by one of the strongest storms in history.
Tokyo is tripling its emergency aid package for the Philippines to more than US$30 million (S$37 million), and plans to send as many as 1,000 troops to the disaster zone - the largest single relief operation team sent abroad by its de-facto military.
"We believe China should send its warships to the Philippines too," said the Global Times, which is close to the Communist Party, adding such a move would be "well-intentioned".
The dispute over islands in the strategically vital South China Sea - which Beijing claims almost in its entirety - has been running for years.
Manila says Chinese vessels have occupied Scarborough Shoal, which it claims itself, since last year, and it is open to question whether it would welcome a Chinese navy presence in its waters.
The US and Japanese militaries' part in the relief efforts was an element of Washington's Asia strategy and may have "more intentions hidden behind the humanitarian aid", the newspaper - which often strikes a nationalist tone - said in a separate report.
Beijing could send a hospital ship, the Peace Ark, escorted by warships if dispatching its newly commissioned aircraft carrier the Liaoning was "sensitive and premature", said the editorial.
It came after China said Thursday it would provide a further $1.6 million aid to the Philippines, mainly in tents and blankets, after widespread criticism of its initial modest response of a $100,000 government donation, matched by the Chinese Red Cross.
The country was cautious about sending troops overseas in the past because of "a lack of capabilities, experience and many other concerns", said the Global Times editorial, which was similar in both English and Chinese editions.
But now, it said: "The Chinese military must gradually assume a more forceful role in China's diplomacy.
"There is no need for a stronger China to worry about what we should do if our offer is rejected by the Philippines or if we are criticised by global public opinion due to poor performance," it added.