The United States has warned that its military will intervene if China carries out an armed attack on Philippine armed forces, public vessels, or aircraft, including those of the Coast Guard in the South China Sea.
The warning from the State Department came in the wake of Chinese Coast Guard’s reported use of laser devices against the crew of a Philippine Coast Guard ship in the South China Sea last week.
The Philippines Coast Guard alleged that a ship of its Chinese counterpart directed a “military-grade” laser at its patrol vessel, BRP Malapascua.
PCG alleged that the laser flash resulted in the temporary blindness of the crew members of the Philippine ship.
The incident occurred on February 6 in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, parts of which are claimed by China as well other South East Asian countries.
The Chinese action was provocative and unsafe, and interfering with the Philippines’ lawful operations in and around Second Thomas Shoal, according to a statement issued by Ned Price, the State Department spokesperson.
China’s dangerous operational behavior directly threatens regional peace and stability, infringes upon freedom of navigation in the South China Sea as guaranteed under international law, and undermines the rules-based international order, it added.
The State Department pointed out that as reflected in an international tribunal’s legally binding decision issued in July 2016, China has no lawful maritime claims to Second Thomas Shoal.
The United States called on China to abide by the 2016 arbitral decision, which is the pursuant to the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention.
“The United States stands with our Philippine allies in upholding the rules-based international maritime order and reaffirms an armed attack on Philippine armed forces, public vessels, or aircraft, including those of the Coast Guard in the South China Sea, would invoke U.S. mutual defense commitments under Article IV of the 1951 U.S. Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty,” the statement showed.
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