Manila’s Defense Ministry said on Thursday, the Philippines welcomes the US commitment to assist them if Beijing becomes aggressive in the South China Sea, after Washington warned that an armed attack on the Southeast country Asia will force America to aid allies under decades of age. pact.
For weeks, the Philippine government had a verbal argument with Beijing and diplomatic protests for the presence of dozens of Chinese ships in disputed waters, but China has denied the allegations and say these are fishing vessels.
“The US’s warning of China against the use of force against Philippine ships and service aircraft, which are carrying out their constitutional duties to protect and protect the rights of the Philippines in the Philippines. The South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea, is an additional affirmation for … Arsenio Andolong, a spokesman for the Philippine Department of Defense, said.
“As the situation in the West Coast of the Philippines develops, we keep all our options on managing the situation, including promoting our partnerships with other countries such as the United States, Andolong said, referring to the South China Sea area claimed by the Philippines.
A day earlier, the US State Department reiterated that Washington was backing a longtime Asian ally – a former US colony – in an ongoing dispute over Chinese ships anchored at the Whitsun Reef, located in the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines (EEZ), and other disputed waters in the Spratly Islands.
“As we have stated before, an armed attack against the armed forces, public ships or aircraft of the Philippines in the Pacific, including in the South China Sea, will trigger obligations. US-Philippines Joint Defense Treaty, ”Ned Price, the department’s spokesperson, told a daily press conference to answer a reporter’s question.
Under the auspices of a 70-year-old treaty, the armed forces of the United States and the Philippines will provide military aid to each other in the event of an external attack on one of them.
Despite Manila’s repeated calls for ships to leave the area and filing diplomatic protests, Chinese ships linger there.
Last week, the Philippine military said dozens of Chinese militia ships were scattered among disputed reefs and islets in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.
The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed that the area around the Whitsun Reef belonged to Beijing.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters during the press conference: “The Philippines tries to use the award illegally, invalid to deny China’s sovereignty, rights and interests, denying fishing history and rights of Chinese fishermen at their traditional fishing grounds. on Tuesday.
“We hope the Philippines will see this matter objectively and properly, immediately stop exaggerating nonsense … and avoid negatively affecting bilateral relations as well as peace and stability,” he said. in the South China Sea.
The Chinese Embassy in Manila on Thursday did not immediately respond to the Philippines and US claims.
Beijing asserted much of the South China Sea as its territory, despite a July 2016 UN-backed international arbitration ruling that asserted the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.
Other claimants in the South China Sea are Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam. Although Indonesia does not consider itself a claimant in territorial disputes, China claims historic rights that overlap Indonesia’s EEZ.
Protests are taking place
Since Monday, the Philippine Foreign Ministry has filed a daily protest against China over ships in its EEZ.
On Wednesday, Foreign Minister Teodoro Locsin Jr again asked all Chinese ships to move out.
“Nobody fishes by hitting ships together. The last time that was done was the Persian invasion of Greece recorded by Herodotus, ”Locsin said in a Twitter post late Wednesday. “We watched that movie.”
China’s presence in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone also includes Manila up to the Forces Visits Agreement with Washington, which President Rodrigo Duterte has threatened to end.
In February, Lloyd Austin, defense director in the New Biden Administration, reaffirmed Washington’s commitment to the 1999 VFA and the 1951 Joint Defense Treaty in his first formal phone call with his counterpart. Philippines, Delfin Lorenzana.
The VFA, which allows for the US military presence in the Philippines, has remained in effect since the termination of its operations by Manila.
The pact also forms the basis of another defense cooperation agreement that allows the US military to pre-arrange assets at several Philippine military bases.
“We are constantly negotiating with the US on the issue of mutual defense,” Andolong said on Thursday.
“Both sides are committed to fulfilling their obligations under the Mutual Defense Treaty so as not to stand alone in matters relating to the two countries’ inherent right to self-defense, whether individually or internally,” he said. can.
Meanwhile, the US maintains naval patrols in the South China Sea. On Sunday, the carrier strike group Theodore Roosevelt entered the waterways to carry out maritime strike exercises, anti-submarine operations, coordinated tactical training and other operations, according to the US Navy. .
On Wednesday, the Royal Malaysian Air Force announced it had completed a two-day bilateral exercise at sea with the Roosevelt strike group.
Reported by BenarNews, an online news service affiliated with RFA.