US warns China: Stop ‘provocative conduct’ | Global News

US warns China: Stop ‘provocative conduct’

/ 05:50 AM May 01, 2023

PH, China trade blame for near-collision in WPS

This photo taken on April 23, 2023 shows a Chinese coast guard ship (L) shadowing the Philippine coast guard vessel BRP Malabrigo (R) at Second Thomas Shoal in the Spratly Islands in the disputed South China Sea. – AFP was one of several media outlets invited to join two Philippine Coast Guard boats on a 1,670-kilometre (1,040-mile) patrol of the South China Sea, visiting a dozen islands and reefs. Beijing claims sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea, including the Spratly Islands, ignoring an international ruling that the assertion has no legal basis. (Photo by TED ALJIBE /  Agence France-Presse)

MANILA, Philippines – The United States has called on China to stop its “provocative and unsafe conduct,” after a near-collision between Chinese and Philippine coast guard vessels in an area within Manila’s territorial waters in the South China Sea.

In a statement two days before President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s official visit to Washington, which begins with a meeting with US President Joe Biden on Monday, the US Department of State said the April 23 incident was a reminder of China’s “harassment and intimidation” of Philippine vessels in the contested waterway.


“We call upon Beijing to desist from its provocative and unsafe conduct,” it said, adding that any attack on Philippine armed forces would prompt a US response.


“The United States stands with our Philippine allies in upholding the rules-based international maritime order and reaffirms that an armed attack in the Pacific, which includes the South China Sea, on Philippine armed forces, public vessels, or aircraft, including those of the Coast Guard, would invoke US mutual defense commitments under Article IV of the 1951 US-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty,” the state department said.

The United States has called the treaty, which binds the two countries to support each other should one of them be attacked by external forces, a foundation for close security cooperation between the two countries.

Biden has been working to bolster relations with Asian allies as US-China relations remain in a historically deep chill, and the Philippines’ proximity to key sea lanes and Taiwan gives it particular strategic importance.

The incident off Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal was the latest in a long list of maritime incidents between China and the Philippines.

It came hours after another China Coast Guard vessel persistently tailed the Philippines’ BRP Malabrigo in the vicinity of Ayungin Shoal.

Beijing claims sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea, ignoring an international ruling that the assertion has no legal basis.


Agence France-Presse (AFP) was one of several media outlets that witnessed the incident after journalists were invited to join two Philippine Coast Guard boats on a six-day patrol of the waters, visiting a dozen islands and reefs.

The Philippine vessels approached Ayungin Shoal, known in China as Ren’ai Jiao, in the Kalayaan (Spratly) archipelago.

As one boat, the BRP Malapascua, which was carrying Filipino journalists, neared the shoal, a Chinese Coast Guard vessel more than twice its size sailed into its path.

AFP journalists watched the incident from the other Philippine Coast Guard boat, which was less than a kilometer away.

The Malapascua’s commanding officer said the Chinese ship came within 45 meters of his boat and only his quick actions avoided the steel-hulled vessels crashing into each other.

The Chinese foreign ministry said on Friday that the Philippine boats had “intruded” without China’s permission and called it a “premeditated and provocative action.”

But Manila hit back, saying that “routine patrols in our own waters can be neither premeditated or provocative” and insisting they will continue to conduct the patrols.

The incident happened just a day after President Marcos hosted Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang for talks in Manila aimed at defusing tensions in the waterway.

Mr. Marcos has insisted he would not let China trample on the Philippines’ rights in the sea, and has gravitated toward the United States as he sought to strengthen defense ties.

Early this month, the Philippines identified four additional military bases, including one near the Spratly Islands, to add to five existing sites to which US forces will have access under the 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca).

The two countries also recently carried out their biggest joint drill yet called “Balikatan” (shoulder-to-shoulder).

These developments have alarmed China, which has accused Washington of trying to drive a wedge between Beijing and Manila.

‘Ironclad commitment’

Philippine-US ties were badly frayed under the previous administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Mr. Marcos has sought to allay public fears that reviving the alliance with the United States could bring the Philippines into conflict if China were to invade Taiwan.

He has said that with Biden, he would discuss the “need to tone down the rhetoric” over the South China Sea, Taiwan and North Korea.

White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre said earlier in the month that Biden intended, in the meeting with Mr. Marcos, to “reaffirm the United States’ ironclad commitment to the defense of the Philippines.”

In Congress, House Deputy Speaker Ralph Recto on Sunday called for a continuing barrage of diplomatic protests against Chinese aggression in the West Philippine Sea.

According to the Batangas lawmaker, “even if we have to wallpaper the Great Wall with diplomatic protests,” China’s belligerent acts inside the country’s territorial waters should be met with indignation at every turn to thwart Beijing’s apparent game plan.

Recto said the Philippines should continue “making noise” against Chinese aggression “because once we show any sign of wavering, it normalizes China’s misbehavior inside our territory.”

He noted that even if China would remain deaf to our protests, “we have to blow our whistle again and again. At least, the whole world would hear,” likening it to a burglar alarm.

‘No business’

“We also owe it to our neighbors, who are the subject of Chinese incursions, to make noise,” Recto said, as he lamented that China’s actions would not come from a friend.

The Department of Foreign Affairs last year filed 195 notes verbales on incidents at the West Philippine Sea.

A militant group also bristled at the Chinese Embassy’s statement accusing the Philippines of “premeditated and provocative action.”

On Sunday, Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes reminded Beijing that it was, in fact, the one that has consistently engaged in provocative behavior as it tries to assert control over the West Philippine Sea despite a 2016 arbitral ruling to the contrary.

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“China has no business telling us what we can and cannot do in our exclusive economic zone (EEZ) where we exercise our sovereign rights,” he said. “It also has no business being in our EEZ nor telling our ships how they should conduct patrols.”


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TAGS: Ferdinand Marcos Jr., maritime dispute, PH-China Relations, US-China relations, West Philippine Sea

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