DND: After China laser attack, US assures PH of ‘ironclad commitment’ on alliance
MANILA, Philippines — The United States has assured the Philippines of its “ironclad commitment” to their alliance following the Chinese Coast Guard’s harassment of the country’s vessel using a military-grade laser.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III made the pronouncement during a Wednesday phone call meeting with Defense Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., the Department of National Defense said in a statement on Thursday.
“Secretary Austin reiterated that the US’ commitment to the alliance remains ironclad,” the DND said in a statement.
Austin even stressed that an armed attack on Philippine armed forces, aircraft, and public vessels, including the Coast Guard, anywhere in the South China Sea would trigger the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) between the two countries, the DND said, echoing the previous statement of the US Defense Department.
READ: After China laser incident, US says armed attack on PH vessels would trigger MDT
Signed by two parties on August 30, 1951, the MDT states that both countries would support each other if an external party attacked either the Philippines or the United States.
For his part, Galvez thanked Austin for the latter’s expression of support.
“The OIC, DND expressed appreciation for the US Government’s support for the Philippines in view of recent incidents in the West Philippine Sea, including the use of a military-grade laser against members of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) in the vicinity of Ayungin Shoal,” the DND said.
The bilateral meeting comes after the February 6 incident when a Chinese Coast Guard illuminated a green light twice toward the PCG vessel, which was supporting a rotation and resupply mission of the Philippine Navy in Ayungin Shoal in the West Philippine Sea.
China’s action was anchored to its assertion that it owns almost all of the areas in the South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea.
But in 2016, the United Nations-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague invalidated China’s claim to almost the entire South China Sea.
The tribunal ruled that China’s claim had no basis in international law and that it had violated the Philippines’ sovereign right to fish and explore resources in the West Philippine Sea, the waters within the country’s 370-kilometer EEZ in the South China Sea.
This after the Philippines, under the administration of the late President Benigno Aquino III in 2013, challenged in the Hague court China’s claim that it owned more than 80 percent of the South China Sea, which included waters in the EEZ of Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam.
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