“The United States stands with our Philippine allies in the face of dangerous actions by the Coast Guard and maritime militia of the People’s Republic of China,” said State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller in a written statement.
The State Department reaffirmed its support for the Philippines after the PRC Coast Guard on August 5th used a water cannon to block the progress of a Philippine vessel in the South China Sea. The Philippine boat was part of a flotilla carrying supplies to Filipino solders on Second Thomas Shoal in the Spratly Islands.
This is not the first time the PRC has carried out such dangerous actions. In November 2021 the PRC also used a water cannon against a Philippine boat, and it has repeatedly conducted maneuvers which came dangerously close to Philippine vessels. In February 2023 the Philippine Coast Guard accused the PRC of directing a military grade laser at one of its boats, temporarily blinding the crew on the bridge.
Referencing the August 5th incident, State Department Spokesperson Miller said, “Firing water cannon and employing unsafe blocking maneuvers, PRC ships interfered with the Philippines’ lawful exercise of high seas freedom of navigation and jeopardized the safety of the Philippine vessels and crew. Such actions by the PRC are inconsistent with international law and are the latest in repeated threats to the status quo in the South China Sea, directly threatening regional peace and stability.”
The PRC continues to make large territorial claims to the South China Sea and to the islands within it, despite the legally binding ruling of an international tribunal in 2016 that found the PRC has no lawful claim to the maritime area around Second Thomas Shoal. “The United States calls upon the PRC to abide by the arbitral ruling as well as to respect the freedom of navigation – a right to which all states are entitled,” said Spokesperson Miller.
He also underscored that the United States would meet its obligations to its ally. “The United States,” Spokesperson Miller declared, “reaffirms an armed attack on Philippine public vessels, aircraft, and armed forces – including those of its Coast Guard in the South China Sea – would invoke U.S. mutual defense commitments under Article IV of the 1951 U.S. Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty.”