Antony Blinken, the U.S. Secretary of State, reiterated the American commitment to defend the armed forces of the Philippines from attack in the South China Sea under a seventy-year-old mutual defense agreement. Blinken gave the remarks on Sunday in a statement marking the 5th anniversary of a reigning by an independent mediation tribunal rejecting the expansive territorial claims of China over the watercourse, siding with the Philippines.
Tensions in the South China Sea, which Vietnam, Taiwan, Brunei, and Malaysia also disputed, intensified this year, with Manila accusing China of threatening its coast guard vessels and sending its so-called maritime militia to force out Philippine fishing boats. The key diplomat of the U.S said that America could invoke the United States-Philippine mutual defense accord on the occasion of any Chinese military action against Philippine assets in the region.
Blinken said that they also reiterate that an armed attack from China on Philippine armed forces, aircraft in the South China Sea, or public vessels would invoke American mutual defense commitments under Article 4 of the 1951 U.S.-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty. The state secretary also asked the Chinese administration to obey its obligations under international law and stop its aggressive behavior in the South China Sea.
Beijing Disavowed the Tribunal Ruling
The 2016 ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) at The Hague sacked the claims of China to the South China Sea entirely while making clear that China was invading the sovereignty of the Philippines through activities like island-building in the exclusive zone of Manila.
China renounced the tribunal ruling and continued to build up its regimental reinforcement in the South China Sea. It claims the United States and other nations are intensifying tensions in the region by sending their combat ships there to defile its sovereignty.
Furthermore, Washington counters that its naval presence in the South China Sea supports navigation freedom under international maritime law. Understanding the American stance, the guided-missile destroyer USS Benfold (DDG-65) executed freedom on navigation operation near the Paracel Islands in the northwestern region of the South China Sea on Monday, according to the statement of the seventh Fleet of the U.S. Navy.
The U.S. Secretary of State requested China to take necessary steps to reassure its commitment to the international community of obeying the rules-based naval order that respects the rights of all nations, including small and big. He said America stands behind the 2016 ruling against China, as echoed last year by Mike Pompeo, then-Secretary of State, who said at that point that China’s claims to offshore resources crosswise most of the South China Sea are totally illegal.