Tuesday, May 21, 2024
 
 

U.S. condemns latest PRC actions in South China Sea as dangerous

Aggressive Chinese activities in the South China Sea continue to mount
U.S. Naval Institute
The BRP Sierra Madre (Philippines Navy), intentionally grounded on the Second Thomas Shoal in the Spratly Islands to establish a strongpoint against Chinese encroachment

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Coming just days after U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Manila (March 19), Washington released on March 23 a strongly worded statement of support for the Philippines after another dangerous encounter was provoked by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) near the Second Thomas Shoal in the South China Sea (text below). During his Manila stop,  Blinken reiterated that the U.S. would stand by the Philippines and “our ironclad defense commitments, including under the mutual defense treaty.”  The latest U.S. statement repeated the same point.

The White House had announced, shortly before Blinken’s arrival in Manila, that President Joe Biden would be hosting a three-way summit with Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr, and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida at the White House in April. This follows similar a three-way summit Washington had arranged with South Korea and Japan, designed to boost regional stability.

U.S. – Philippines military cooperation improving rapidly

The U.S. and the Philippines announced in February 2023 a substantial expansion of existing military cooperation arrangements, increasing the number of facilities US forces can access on a rotational basis to nine. That deal amended the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty mentioned above which has long committed both countries to come to each other’s aid in event of a conflict.

Bilateral relations between Washington and Manila have improved steadily under the leadership of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr, elected in June 2022, although they had been slowly warming before the change of leaders in Manila.

Expanding defensive alliances in the Pacific

Current U.S. strategy is to strengthen the existing defensive ring of alliances around China, but with a special focus on boosting the defense of Taiwan in view of Beijing’s loud saber rattling as well as pushing back against China’s steady encroachment in the South China Sea with thinly disguised military construction projects on several coral atolls directly opposite the Philippines and other nations in the region.

The U.S. military also maintains a regular presence in the South China Sea, with so-called “freedom of navigation” operations, aircraft overflights, as well as patrols and exercises with allies and partners to underline the fact that the South China Sea is an international waterway.

Text of March 23 statement:

U.S. Support for the Philippines in the South China Sea

The United States stands with its ally the Philippines and condemns the dangerous actions by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) against lawful Philippine maritime operations in the South China Sea on March 23. PRC ships’ repeated employment of water cannons and reckless blocking maneuvers resulted in injuries to Filipino service members and significant damage to their resupply vessel, rendering it immobile. The PRC’s actions prevent normal personnel rotations and deprive Filipino service members at Second Thomas Shoal of necessary provisions. This incident marks only the latest in the PRC’s repeated obstruction of Philippine vessels’ exercise of high seas freedom of navigation and disruption of supply lines to this longstanding outpost.

The PRC’s actions are destabilizing to the region and show clear disregard for international law. According to an international tribunal’s legally binding decision issued in July 2016, the PRC has no lawful maritime claims to the waters around Second Thomas Shoal and Second Thomas Shoal is a low tide feature clearly within the Philippines exclusive economic zone. As provided under the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention, the 2016 arbitral decision is final and legally binding on the PRC and the Philippines, and the United States calls upon the PRC to abide by the ruling and desist from its dangerous and destabilizing conduct.

The United States reaffirms that Article IV of the 1951 U.S.-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty extends to armed attacks on Philippine armed forces, public vessels, or aircraft – including those of its Coast Guard – anywhere in the South China Sea.”

 

 

 

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