The United States has accused China of intimidating and harassing Philippine vessels, asking Beijing to end “provocative” action in the South China Sea.
US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said this in a statement on Saturday, just two days before President Joe Biden is to host his counterpart, Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr, in Washington, DC.
The move comes after a recent near-collision between a Chinese vessel and a Philippine Coast Guard boat and the State Department warned that an attack on Philippine security forces or public vessels would trigger a US response.
Miller said the United States stands with their Philippine allies in upholding the rules-based international maritime order and reaffirms that an armed attack in the Pacific, on Philippine armed forces, public vessels, or aircraft, including those of the Coast Guard, would invoke US mutual defense commitments.
The US was responding to a near-miss between Chinese and Philippine vessels off the Spratly Islands which has become the latest in a long string of maritime incidents between the two countries in the South China Sea
The Philippines on Friday accused China’s coast guard of “aggressive tactics” following an incident during a Philippine Coast Guard patrol close to the Philippines-held Second Thomas Shoal in the Spratly archipelago, a flashpoint for previous altercations located 195km off its coast.
The Second Thomas Shoal is home to a small Philippine military contingent on board a rusty World War Two-era US ship that was intentionally grounded in 1999 to reinforce the Philippines’s territorial claims in the South China Sea.
Beijing claims sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea, ignoring an international ruling that the assertion has no legal basis.
The Chinese foreign ministry said on Friday that the Philippine boats had “intruded” without China’s permission and called it a “premeditated and provocative action”.
But Manila responded, saying that routine patrols in our own waters can be neither premeditated nor provocative and insisted they will continue to conduct the patrols.