US Pledges to Protect Philippine Vessels from Chinese Aggression in the South China Sea
Tensions in the South China Sea have escalated in recent weeks, following a stand-off between a Chinese ship and a Philippine patrol vessel
The US Navy and the Armed Forces of the Philippines Navy conduct a joint exercise (Photo: U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Christopher S. Johnson)
In response, the US has invoked the US-Philippine Mutual Defense Treaty, pledging to protect Philippine vessels from China's aggressive actions.
The South China Sea, a waterway that handles an estimated $5 trillion in global trade each year, has been a long-standing area of dispute.
The recent incident involved a Philippine patrol vessel carrying journalists on a 1,038-mile (1,670-kilometer) patrol for the first time, as part of a new Philippine strategy to expose China's increasingly assertive actions in the region.
According to reports from the Associated Press journalists on board the Philippine boat, a larger Chinese ship blocked the vessel near the Second Thomas Shoal, a Philippine-controlled reef in the Spratly Islands that is also claimed by China, Taiwan, and Vietnam.
The Chinese ship approached within 120 to 150 feet of the Philippine vessel, which had to reverse its engines to avoid a collision.
China has accused the Philippines of staging the near-collision for the press and blames Manila for the incident.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said that the presence of the press on the Philippine vessels indicated that "it was a premeditated provocation designed to initiate friction, blame it on China and hype up the incident."
In a statement, State Department representative Matthew Miller said that the US "stands with the Philippines in the face of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) Coast Guard’s continued infringement upon freedom of navigation in the South China Sea."
The statement further declared that the US was prepared to go to war with China if a Philippine vessel came under attack.
"The United States stands with our Philippine allies in upholding the rules-based international maritime order and reaffirms that an armed attack in the Pacific, which includes the South China Sea, on Philippine armed forces, public vessels, or aircraft, including those of the Coast Guard, would invoke US mutual defense commitments under Article IV of the 1951 US Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty," the statement read.
As the situation in the South China Sea continues to be a source of tension between China and its neighbors, the US's declaration of support for the Philippines highlights the ongoing global struggle to maintain order and stability in the region.