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U.S. Pledges Support to Philippines Amidst Rising Tensions in South China Sea

 U.S. Pledges Support to Philippines Amidst Rising Tensions in South China Sea

A Philippine flag flutters from BRP Sierra Madre, a dilapidated Philippine Navy ship that has been aground since 1999 and became a Philippine military detachment on the disputed Second Thomas shoal in the South China Sea. Credit: REUTERS/Erik De Castro

In a firm response to recent incidents involving Chinese vessels in the South China Sea, the United States has reaffirmed its commitment to defend the Philippines under the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty. The warning follows clashes between Chinese and Filipino vessels near the contested Second Thomas Shoal.

Philippine diplomats lodged a strong protest with a Chinese Embassy official in Manila after two Filipino vessels were blocked and collided with by Chinese ships. While no injuries were reported, a Philippine coast guard ship and a navy-operated supply boat sustained damage in the encounters.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. convened an emergency meeting with top military officials to address the escalating situation. Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro condemned China’s “brute force,” accusing them of endangering Filipino crews and distorting facts to conceal their aggression.

“The Philippine government views the latest aggression by China as a blatant violation of international law,” Teodoro stated. “China has no legal right or authority to conduct law enforcement operations in our territorial waters and in our exclusive economic zone.”

An investigation into the high-sea collisions has been ordered by President Marcos, but specific government actions remain undisclosed.

While the Philippines plans to raise concerns over China’s actions in talks with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Teodoro expressed irony in China hosting negotiations aimed at preventing major conflicts at sea while committing “a blatant disregard of international law.”

The territorial disputes involving China, the Philippines, and neighboring nations have long been considered a flashpoint in U.S.-China relations. China’s blockade on Sunday prevented Philippine vessels from delivering supplies to Filipino forces at Second Thomas Shoal.

The Chinese coast guard blamed the Philippines for the collisions, alleging that Filipino vessels intruded into Chinese territory. The U.S. State Department issued a statement condemning China’s actions, citing the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty and a 2016 arbitration ruling that invalidated China’s expansive claims to the South China Sea.

“The United States stands with our Philippine allies in the face of the People’s Republic of China coast guard and maritime militia’s dangerous and unlawful actions obstructing an October 22 Philippine resupply mission to Second Thomas Shoal,” the statement read.

The rising tensions underscore the delicate balance in the U.S.-China rivalry, with Washington emphasizing its commitment to defend its allies and promote freedom of navigation in the region.

 

 

 

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