US warns China over moves on Philippines, Taiwan

(Agence France-Presse) - April 8, 2021 - 7:21am

WASHINGTON, United States — The United States on Wednesday warned China against what the Philippines and Taiwan see as increasingly aggressive moves, reminding Beijing of Washington's obligations to its partners.

"An armed attack against the Philippines' armed forces, public vessels or aircraft in the Pacific, including in the South China Sea, will trigger our obligations under the US-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty," State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters.

"We share the concerns of our Philippine allies regarding the continued reported massing of PRC maritime militia near the Whitsun Reef," Price said, referring to the People's Republic of China.

More than 200 Chinese boats were first spotted on March 7 at Whitsun Reef, around 320 kilometers (200 miles) west of Palawan Island in the contested South China Sea, although many have since scattered across the Spratly Islands.

China, which claims almost the entirety of the resource-rich sea, has refused weeks of appeals by the Philippines to withdraw the vessels, which Manila says unlawfully entered its exclusive economic zone.

Tensions have also risen with Taiwan, which Beijing claims as part of China, with the self-governing democracy on Wednesday reporting that 15 more of the mainland's planes crossed into the island's air defense zone.

Price voiced "concern" about the Chinese moves, saying: "The United States maintains the capacity to resist any resort to force or other forms of coercion that would jeopardize the security or the social or economic system of the people on Taiwan."

He was using language from the Taiwan Relations Act, under which the United States is obliged to provide the island with the means to defend itself against Beijing.

President Joe Biden has vowed a robust defense of allies and, in a rare point of continuity with his predecessor Donald Trump, has supported strong pushback against Chinese assertiveness.

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: April 9, 2021 - 10:33am

A thread of major developments in the bilateral relations between the Philippines and the United States from January to December 2021. (Presidential photo/Joey Dalumpines and AFP/Angela Weiss)

April 9, 2021 - 10:33am

In a phone call earlier today, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. and US State Secretary Antony Blinken shared concerns with the massing of Chinese maritime militia vessels in the West Philippine Sea, including Julian Felipe (Whitsun) Reef, US State Department Ned Price says.

The two foreign ministers also reiterate their calls on China to abide by the 2016 arbitration ruling issued pursuant to the Law of the Sea Convention.

"Secretary Blinken also reaffirmed the applicability of the 1951 U.S.-Philippine Mutual Defense Treaty to the South China Sea," Price says.

April 8, 2021 - 7:27am

The United States reiterates its commitment to its Mutual Defense Treaty with the Philippines amid the continuing presence of Chinese militia ships in the West Philippine Sea.

US State Department spokesperson Ned Price echoes the earlier statement of State Secretary Antony Blinken, expressing concerns on the latest development in Julian Felipe (Whitsun) Reef.

"As we have stated before, an armed attack against the Philippines armed forces, public vessels, or aircraft in the Pacific, including in the South China Sea, will trigger our obligations under the U.S.-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty," Price tells reporters in a press briefing on Wednesday.

The transcript of this press briefing can be accessed here.

March 29, 2021 - 8:22am

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken reiterates the position of Washington on the presence of China's maritime militia at Julian Felipe Reef in the West Philippine Sea.

"We will always stand by our allies and stand up for the rules-based international order," Blinken tweets Monday morning (Manila time).

March 16, 2021 - 2:49pm

The United States hands over P3.7 million ($75,000) worth of underwater equipment to the Philippine National Police - Maritime Group in support of its underwater crime scene investigation program.

On Monday, representatives from the US Department of State, US Department of Defense and US Coast Guard turned over 12 sets of scuba gear, underwater evidence collection items and some related training equipment to PNP-MG director PBrig. Gen. John Mitchell Jamili.

The US has funded the PNP's underwater crime scene investigation program since 2016.

March 5, 2021 - 2:10pm

The United States, the biggest COVAX donor, welcomes the arrival of 487,200 doses of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines in the Philippines, the US Embassy in Manila says.

The US has so far donated P97.2 billion ($2 billion) to COVAX "to ensure the Philippines and other countries receive COVID-19 vaccines."

"As we fight the pandemic together, the United States will continue to support the Philippines’ vaccination and COVID-19 mitigation efforts," US Embassy Chargé d’Affaires John Law says.

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