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US reiterates: Attack on Philippine vessels, aircraft will trigger response under defense accord

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US reiterates: Attack on Philippine vessels, aircraft will trigger response under defense accord
BRP Cabra crew drove away seven foreign fishing vessels spotted at the vicinity waters of Marie Louise Bank within Philippine exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea.
Philippine Coast Guard via BRP Cabra / Screengrab

MANILA, Philippines — The United States called on China to cease its provocative acts in the South China Sea and warned that an armed attack on the Philippine military will trigger a 1951 mutual defense treaty.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken made the stern statement as the Philippines marked the fifth anniversary of the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s 2016 ruling that invalidated Beijing’s expansive "nine-dash-line" claim over a large part of the South China Sea.

China does not recognize the tribunal’s decision

“The United States reaffirms its July 13, 2020 policy regarding maritime claims in the South China Sea,” Blinken said, referring to a Trump-era rejection of virtually all of China’s sweeping claims in the resource-rich waters.

“We also reaffirm that an armed attack on Philippine armed forces, public vessels, or aircraft in the South China Sea would invoke US mutual defense commitments under Article IV of the 1951 US-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty,” he added.

Article IV of the 70-year-old defense accord states the following:

Each Party recognizes that an armed attack in the Pacific area on either of the Parties would be dangerous to its own peace and safety and declares that it would act to meet the common dangers in accordance with its constitutional processes.

Any such armed attack and all measures taken as a result thereof shall be immediately reported to the Security Council of the United Nations, Such measures shall be terminated when the Security Council has taken the measures necessary to restore and maintain international peace and security.

“Nowhere is the rules-based maritime order under greater threat than in the South China Sea,” Blinken said, accusing Beijing of continuing to “coerce and intimidate” Southeast Asian coastal states. 

“We call on [the People’s Republic of China] to abide by its obligations under international law, cease its provocative behavior, and take steps to reassure the international community that it is committed to the rules-based maritime order that respects the rights of all countries, big and small,” he said.

China considers US involvement in the South China Sea dispute a form of meddling and has often stressed that differences between claimants would be better handled through bilateral discussions. Beijing and Manila have set up bilateral talks to discuss issues like a 2019 incident where a Filipino fishing boat sank after being hit by a Chinese fishing vessel of Recto (Reed) Bank.

 

 — Gaea Katreena Cabico

1951 MUTUAL DEFENSE TREATY

ANTONY BLINKEN

WEST PHILIPPINE SEA

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