(Washington) The United States on Saturday called on Beijing to end its “provocative and dangerous” action in the disputed waters of the South China Sea, after a near-miss collision between a Chinese Coast Guard vessel and a Philippine vessel.
“We call on Beijing to desist from its provocative and dangerous action,” US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said in a statement, while strongly reaffirming Washington’s support for its “ally” the Philippines.
The United States thus recalls that “an armed attack in the Pacific, which includes the South China Sea, against the Philippine armed forces, government vessels or aircraft, including those of the Coast Guard, would result in the enforcement of mutual defense commitments of the United States” to the Philippines, under a 1951 treaty.
The incident, which has raised the tone between Beijing and Manila, occurred on Sunday near the Spratly Islands, the day after talks in the Philippine capital of Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang with Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr aiming precisely to defuse the discord in these contested waters.
This comes as the Philippine president is expected in Washington on Monday to be received by his counterpart Joe Biden at the White House.
Beijing claims almost all of the South China Sea, ignoring a 2016 international judgment that found its claims to have no legal basis.
China has redeveloped and militarized there, over the past decade, thousands of hectares of reefs where landing strips, ports and radar systems have grown.
According to an AFP team who was on another Philippine boat, the Chinese coast guard vessel cut off the road to that of the Philippine coast guard and the collision was narrowly avoided. The incident is the latest in a long series.
“Recently released media images and videos are stark reminders of the People’s Republic of China harassing and intimidating Philippine vessels carrying out routine patrols in their Exclusive Economic Zone,” the US State Department also denounced.
China responded to the incident Friday by accusing the Philippines of “deliberately” wanting to provoke it. Manila said “routine patrols in our own waters cannot be premeditated or provocative” and are “a legal right that we have exercised and will continue to exercise.”