US backs the Philippines, condemns China's latest aggression
By Pacific Island Times News Staff
The United States stands with its Philippine ally in the face of China Coast Guard and maritime militia’s dangerous and unlawful actions obstructing an Oct. 22 Philippine resupply mission to Second Thomas Shoal in the South China Sea.
“By conducting dangerous maneuvers that caused collisions with Philippine resupply and Coast Guard ships, the PRC Coast Guard and maritime militia violated international law by intentionally interfering with the Philippine vessels’ exercise of high seas freedom of navigation,” according to the Office of the Spokesperson for the State Department.
The department said China’s conduct jeopardized Filipino crew members’ safety and impeded critically needed supplies from reaching service members stationed at the BRP Sierra Madre.
“Obstructing supply lines to this longstanding outpost and interfering with lawful Philippine maritime operations undermines regional stability,” the department said.
Second Thomas Shoal is a feature well within the Philippine exclusive economic zone and on the Philippine continental shelf.
An international tribunal’s July 2016 decision – legally binding on both the Philippines and China – made clear that “there exists no legal basis for any entitlement by China to maritime zones in the area of Second Thomas Shoal.”
The same ruling affirmed that the Second Thomas Shoal is a low-tide elevation outside the territorial sea of another high-tide feature – as such, the PRC’s territorial claims to it are unfounded.
The State Department said the unsafe maneuvers on Oct. 22 and the China water cannoning of a Philippines’ vessel on Aug. 5 are the latest examples of Beijing’s provocative measures in the South China Sea to enforce its expansive and unlawful maritime claims, reflecting disregard for other states lawfully operating in the region.
“The United States reaffirms that Article IV of the 1951 U.S.-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty extends to armed attacks on Philippine armed forces, public vessels, and aircraft – including those of its Coast Guard – anywhere in the South China Sea,” the department said.
The National Youth Movement for the West Philippine Sea, a non-partisan and transglobal organization, condemned in the strongest possible words the continuous presence of the Chinese Coast Guard and other Chinese vessels in Philippine waters.
The use of gray tactics is a manifestation of China’s wanton disregard for the rule of law. Relentless harassment of vessels, ranging from government patrols to Filipino fishermen sailing the West Philippine Sea, is totally unacceptable, the group said.
"The presence of these Chinese Coast Guard and militia vessels does not reflect the friendship both our countries have committed to fostering," the youth movement said.
The group called on Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., and other pertinent agencies to continuously assert the Philippines' sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea, and to uphold the constitutional mandate to defend the nation's territorial integrity and national interest.
"The National Youth Movement for the West Philippine Sea has always maintained that sovereignty and sovereign rights are non-negotiable issues and that the Chinese vessels operating within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone and territorial waters must be immediately expelled," the youth movement said.