U.S. officials issued a stern warning to China after one of its vessels collided with a Filipino supply boat and another ship on Sunday. Washington cautioned Beijing that it is firmly behind its long-standing mutual defense treaty with the Philippines and will defend its ally.
An intense standoff between over a dozen Chinese vessels and four Filipino vessels resulted in the collision. Both nations subsequently accused the other of aggression.
The U.S. Embassy in Singapore declared in a statement, “The United States stands with our Philippine allies. PRC Coast Guard and maritime militia violated international law by intentionally interfering with the Philippine vessels’ exercise of high seas freedom of navigation.”
The 🇺🇸 stands with our 🇵🇭 allies in the face of the 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.
— U.S. Embassy in the Philippines (@USEmbassyPH) October 23, 2023
The statement then referenced the 1951 treaty, which applies to armed attacks on the nation’s ships “anywhere in the South China Sea.”
The U.S. took exception to China’s operations in the Second Thomas Shoal, where Sunday’s standoff occurred. It asserted Beijing has “no legal basis” for operating in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.
No injuries were reported, but a Philippine Coast Guard ship and a wooden supply boat were damaged. Philippine diplomats summoned a Chinese official in Manila the next day to lodge a protest.
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. convened an emergency meeting to review this latest outbreak of hostilities in the South China Sea.
Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro, who was part of the meeting, slammed China for its use of “brute force.” He called out the country’s actions for endangering crew members and distorting the truth of the incident.
Teodoro declared, “The Philippine government views the latest aggression by China as a blatant violation of international law.” He said the aggressors have “no legal right or authority” to carry out their operations in his country’s territorial waters.
Ironically, China this week is hosting a regional gathering of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. They are expected to discuss a proposed nonaggression pact, which some describe as a “code of conduct,” to ward off military conflict.
Philippine authorities intend to raise the issue of recent naval aggression in Beijing.
China continues to make broad claims over most of the area despite resistance from several neighboring nations. Countries involved in the territorial dispute increasingly call on their alliance with the U.S. to counter Chinese aggression.