‘Serious concern’: Philippines, US, Japan unite vs China's provocations in South China Sea

Ian Laqui - Philstar.com
�Serious concern�: Philippines, US, Japan unite vs China's provocations in South China Sea
US President Joe Biden speaks to the press with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida (R) and Filipino President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. (L) at the White House in Washington, DC, April 11, 2024.
AFP / Andrew Caballero-Reynolds

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines, United States and Japan condemned the “dangerous and aggressive” behavior of the People’s Republic of China in the South China Sea. 

In a joint vision statement released on Friday morning (Manila time), President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., US President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida urged China to uphold the "final and legally binding" 2016 arbitral tribunal ruling, affirming that the Second Thomas Shoal (Ayungin Shoal) falls within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone.

“We steadfastly oppose the dangerous and coercive use of Coast Guard and maritime militia vessels in the South China Sea, as well as efforts to disrupt other countries’ offshore resource exploitation,” the statement read. 

“We reiterate serious concern over the PRC’s repeated obstruction of Philippine vessels’ exercise of high seas freedom of navigation and the disruption of supply lines to Second Thomas Shoal, which constitute dangerous and destabilizing conduct,” it added.

This statement has been released as the three countries conclude the trilateral meeting conducted in Washington D.C.

The latest incident involving the Chinese Coast Guard at Ayungin Shoal occurred on March 23, when they deployed a water cannon against a resupply boat en route to the shoal to carry out a routine mission of replenishing supplies for the anchored BRP Sierra Madre. The incident resulted in three Navy personnel being injured.

The three countries also opposed China's “coercion” to change the status quo in the East China Sea, particularly the administration of Japan in the Senkaku Islands.

They also called for a peaceful resolution to the conflict between China and Taiwan.

“We affirm the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait as an indispensable element of global security and prosperity, recognize that there is no change in our basic positions on Taiwan, and call for a peaceful resolution of cross-Strait issues,” the statement read.

RELATED: Biden vows 'ironclad' defense of Philippines, Japan as China tension mounts

Joint exercises

The Philippines, US, and Japan also plan to conduct joint exercises and activities in the Indo-Pacific region to improve “interoperability and advance maritime security and safety.”

According to the joint statement, the exercises will prioritize strengthening domain awareness, as well as enhancing capabilities for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

“Within the next year, our coast guards also plan to conduct an at-sea trilateral exercise and other maritime activities in the Indo-Pacific to improve interoperability and advance maritime security and safety,” the joint statement read. 

Planned initiatives include conducting joint training sessions with Southeast Asian regional partners and organizing a humanitarian assistance and disaster response exercise involving all three countries.

The exercise may be integrated into trilateral or multilateral efforts, like Balikatan 2025, to bolster readiness and foster collaboration in times of crises or contingencies.

The three countries also raised concern on illegal fishing which affects the livelihood of both Filipino and Japanese fisherfolk.

“We support the ability of Filipino and Japanese fisherfolk to pursue their traditional livelihoods. To build regional capacity and address threats posed by transnational crime, illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, and other maritime challenges,” the statement read.

“Japan, the Philippines, and the United States plan to expand our efforts to provide maritime law enforcement training and support to partner countries in the region,” it added.

RELATED: US, Japan, Philippines to focus on economic partnership during trilateral summit — DFA

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