US warns China after Ayungin incident

US warns China after Ayungin incident
This file photo taken on March 29, 2014 shows a Philippine Navy vessel that has been grounded since 1999 to assert the nation's sovereignty over the Second Thomas Shoal, a remote South China Sea reef also claimed by China.
AFP / Jay Directo

MANILA, Philippines — The United States on Friday accused China of an escalation against the Philippines and warned that an armed attack would invoke Washington’s mutual defense commitments after an incident in the West Philippine Sea.

State Department spokesperson Ned Price said the US stands with its ally, the Philippines, “in the face of this escalation that directly threatens regional peace and stability, escalates regional tensions, infringes upon freedom of navigation in the South China Sea as guaranteed under international law, and undermines the rules-based international order.”

Washington issued the statement after the Department of Foreign Affairs said the Chinese Coast Guard fired a water cannon against supply boats en route to Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal, forcing the vessels to abort their mission.

“The People’s Republic of China should not interfere with lawful Philippine activities in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone,” Price said.

“The United States stands with our Philippine allies in upholding the rules-based international maritime order and reaffirms that an armed attack on Philippine public vessels in the South China Sea would invoke U.S. mutual defense commitments under Article IV of the 1951 U.S. 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. 

China accused Manila supply boats of trespassing and said the vessels “performed official duties in accordance with law and upheld China’s territorial sovereignty and maritime order.” — Gaea Katreena Cabico

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