The US Recommits to Defense Treaty With the Philippines
Commitment Follows an Incident With Chinese Ships
The United States reaffirmed on Monday its commitment to defend the Philippines under a 1951 treaty following an incident in which Chinese vessels collided with Filipino ships in the contested South China Sea, Voice of America reported.
The incident marks another escalation in the long-standing dispute over the resource-rich waters, drawing a sharp rebuke from Philippine officials.
Chinese ships reportedly blocked and collided with two Filipino vessels, including a Philippine coast guard ship and a navy-operated wooden supply boat, near the disputed Second Thomas Shoal on Sunday. While no injuries were reported, the encounters resulted in damage to both Philippine vessels, leading to heightened tensions in the region.
In response to the incident, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. called an emergency meeting with Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro and other top military and security officials to assess the situation. The latest hostilities come as China's expansive territorial claims in the South China Sea face ongoing resistance from neighboring countries, including the Philippines, which has sought U.S. military support as incidents increase.
Following the meeting, Teodoro lambasted China in a press conference, accusing Beijing of resorting to "brute force" and endangering Filipino crew members. He also criticized the Chinese government for obscuring the facts to hide its 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 our exclusive economic zone."
President Marcos has ordered an investigation into the high-sea collisions, although the specific steps the Philippine government plans to take were not disclosed by Teodoro. He emphasized, however, that the incidents have been taken seriously at the highest levels of government.
"The Chinese government is deliberately obfuscating the truth," Teodoro said, underscoring the government's decision to hold a news conference to provide accurate information about the incident.
The incident and ensuing diplomatic fallout highlight the ongoing challenges in the South China Sea, where overlapping territorial claims have sparked tensions between China and its neighbors. The U.S. has repeatedly expressed concern over China's aggressive actions in the region and has reaffirmed its commitment to defend its allies under existing treaties.