December 5, 2023

The U.S. State Department on Sunday pledged ongoing support for the Philippines after Chinese ships rammed Philippine vessels in disputed waters of the South China Sea.

A State Department news release reiterated a mutual defense treaty between the U.S. and the Philippines.

“The United States stands with our Philippine allies in the face of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) Coast Guard and maritime militia’s dangerous and unlawful actions obstructing an October 22 Philippine resupply mission to Second Thomas Shoal in the South China Sea,” the department said.

“By conducting dangerous maneuvers that caused collisions with Philippine resupply and Coast Guard ships, the PRC Coast Guard and maritime militia violated international law by intentionally interfering with the Philippine vessels’ exercise of high seas freedom of navigation,” it said.

The conflicts near Second Thomas Shoal the Spratly Islands involved a ship of the Chinese coast guard and another vessel, along with a Philippine coast guard ship and a supply ship operated by the Philippine military.

The Chinese military has attempted to isolate a military outpost the Philippines has at Second Thomas Shoal.

Although warned by radio, the Philippines ships “trespassed” into what are claimed to be Chinese waters, China’s coast guard said.

There had been near-collisions in the past, but this was the first incident in which Chinese and Philippine ships have hit, Philippine officials said.

“PRC conduct jeopardized Filipino crew members’ safety and impeded critically needed supplies from reaching service members stationed at the BRP Sierra Madre,” the State Department said in its release.

The BRP Sierra Madre is a 328-foot World War II-era tank landing ship acquired from the U.S. by the Philippines and grounded at Thomas Shoal to retain Filipino claims to the area, according to the South China Morning Post.

“Second Thomas Shoal is a feature well within the Philippine exclusive economic zone and on the Philippine continental shelf,” the State Department said.

“An international tribunal’s July 2016 decision — legally binding on both the Philippines and PRC — made clear that ‘there exists no legal basis for any entitlement by China to maritime zones in the area of Second Thomas Shoal,’” it said.

The release also called China’s recent actions “the latest examples of provocative PRC measures in the South China Sea to enforce its expansive and unlawful maritime claims.”

“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, and aircraft — including those of its Coast Guard — anywhere in the South China Sea,” the State Department said.

U.S. influence in Southeast Asia has declined in favor of China over at least five years, according to the Lowy Institute, an Australian think tank. The declines are diplomatic and cultural and in economics and defense networks, it said.

America’s strongest areas of influence are with the Philippines and Singapore, the Lowy Institute said.

U.S. allies may be questioning pledged U.S. support given the nation’s declining strength under President Joe Biden, coupled with worldwide conflicts from Ukraine to the Middle East along with the administration’s abandonment of Afghanistan in 2021.

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The post China Reminded of US Defense Treaty After Striking Philippine Vessels appeared first on The Western Journal.

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