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Saturday, July 13, 2024

US blasts China, affirms MDT commitment

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The State Department has reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) with the Philippines following China’s latest actions in the West Philippine Sea that involved a Chinese Coast Guard “ramming and towing” a Filipino vessel.

The international community, including the G7 countries, also strongly condemned the latest unruly behavior displayed by China. 

During a call about the June 17 incident, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Maria Theresa Lazaro and Deputy Secretary of State Kurt Campbell “shared concerns” over China’s activities and agreed that China’s dangerous actions threatened regional peace and stability.

Campbell said Article IV of the 1951 United States-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”.

In a separate statement, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller described China’s way of disrupting Manila’s resupply mission as “escalatory and irresponsible”.

“PRC (People’s Republic of China) vessels’ dangerous and deliberate use of water cannons, ramming, blocking maneuvers, and towing damaged Philippine vessels, endangered the lives of Philippine service members, is reckless, and threatens regional peace and stability,” he said, adding that “this escalatory incident is the latest in a series of PRC provocations to impede critically needed supplies from reaching service members stationed at the BRP Sierra Madre,” he said.

Canada meanwhile emphasized that China’s actions are “inconsistent with its obligation under international law, including UNCLOS,” urging China to abide and implement the 2016 arbitral ruling “which is final and binding on the parties.”

South Korea, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom echoed the same sentiment, saying that the incident is a grave violation of rules-based maritime order and is a serious concern of peace and stability. 

European Union (EU) Ambassador to the Philippines Luc Veron stated that “these actions have caused harm, damaged Philippine vessels, and disrupted lawful maritime operations in the Philippine exclusive economic zone.”

Veron emphasized the need for adherence to international law in governing the area. He urged a peaceful resolution to the longstanding maritime dispute. “EU opposes coercion and intimidation in the South China Sea, or anywhere,” Veron said.

The New Zealand Embassy in Manila, German Ambassador Dr. Andreas Pfaffernoschke, and Ambassador Juha Pyykkö of Finland also expressed deep concern over the dangerous actions by China.

They also called for a peaceful resolution of the conflict in full accordance with the United Nation Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

French Ambassador Marie Fontanel reiterated calls for respect of the UNCLOS and freedom of navigation. She also urged for a dispute resolution through peaceful dialogue. 

In a post on X (formerly Twitter), Japan likewise reaffirmed its alliance with the Philippines and vowed to cooperate in “maintaining and enhancing the free and open international order based on the rule of law.”

Canada stressed that China’s actions are “inconsistent with its obligation under international law, including UNCLOS.” Canadian Ambassador David Hartman further urged Beijing to abide by and implement the 2016 arbitral ruling “which is final and binding on the parties.”

The statement came after Philippine Coast Guard spokesperson Commodore Jay Tarriela said the People’s Liberation Army-Navy (PLA-N), China Coast Guard (CCG), and Chinese Maritime Militia (CMM) vessels “engaged in dangerous maneuvers” during a resupply mission to BRP Sierra Madre.

The Second Thomas Shoal has seen an escalating number of confrontations between Chinese and Philippine ships in recent months. These have often taken place during Philippine resupply missions to a garrison of Filipino troops on a grounded navy vessel, the Sierra Madre, aimed at asserting Manila’s claims to the reef.

The shoal lies about 200 kilometers (120 miles) from the western Philippine island of Palawan and more than 1,000 kilometers from China’s nearest major landmass, Hainan island.

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