US Secretary of State Antony Blinken reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to defend the Philippine armed forces against attacks in the South China Sea, as part of a 60-year-old mutual defense treaty.
Blinken made the comments on Sunday, in a statement marking the fifth anniversary of an independent arbitration tribunal ruling rejecting China’s vast land claims over the waterway in a ruling favorable to the Philippines.
Tensions in the South China Sea, which are also disputed by Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam, have escalated this year, with Manila accusing Beijing of trying to intimidate its coastguard vessels, as well as of ‘send its so-called “maritime militia” to oust the Filipino fishing boats.
The top US diplomat said the US could invoke the US-Filipino Mutual Defense Pact in the event of Chinese military action against Filipino assets in the region.
“We also reaffirm that an armed attack on the Philippine armed forces, state ships or planes in the South China Sea would invoke the United States’ mutual defense commitments under Article IV of the US Mutual Defense Treaty. Filipino in 1951, ”Blinken said.
ALEX BRANDON / AFP / POOL / AFP via Getty Images
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
Blinken also called on the Chinese government to “live up to its obligations under international law (and) cease its provocative behavior” in the South China Sea.
The 2016 decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague categorically rejected China’s claims to the South China Sea, while noting that China was undermining the sovereignty of the Philippines through activities such as building a ‘islands in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of Manila.
Beijing disowned the court ruling and continued to develop and militarily strengthen its positions in the South China Sea. He claims that the United States and other countries are increasing tensions in the region by sending their warships there in violation of its sovereignty.
Washington retorts that its naval presence in the South China Sea supports freedom of navigation under international maritime law.
“Nowhere is the rules-based maritime order more under threat than in the South China Sea. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) continues to coerce and intimidate the coastal states of Southeast Asia, threatening the freedom of navigation on this critical global thoroughfare, ”Blinken said in a statement on Sunday, saying reference to China by its official name.
He called on China to “take steps to reassure the international community that it is committed to a rules-based maritime order that respects the rights of all countries, large and small.”
Blinken said the United States supported the 2016 ruling against China, as then reiterated Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last year, who said at the time that “the claims Beijing’s offshore resources in much of the South China Sea are completely illegal, as is the case. his campaign of intimidation to control them.
In response to Pompeo’s comments, the Chinese Embassy in Washington accused the United States of “twisting” international law and “exaggerating” the situation in order to “sow discord”.