U.S. warns PRC against ‘intimidation’ of Philippines in South China Sea
The People’s Republic of China (PRC) should stop its “unacceptable” harassment of Philippine vessels in the South China Sea, a senior United States official said in early May 2023, while pledging that Washington will stand with its staunch ally against any intimidation from Beijing in the disputed waterway.
The comments from Daniel Kritenbrink, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, came shortly after a near-collision between Philippine and Chinese vessels and as Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. visited Washington for a summit with U.S. President Joe Biden. (Pictured: Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., left, and U.S. President Joe Biden meet in the White House in May 2023.)
“This is really a very important issue, and we remain deeply concerned by the People’s Republic of China’s continued intimidation and harassment of Philippine vessels as they undertake routine patrols within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone,” Kritenbrink said during a news briefing.
“You have such actions that are truly unacceptable. We stand with the Philippines in the face of [the] Chinese coast guard’s ongoing infringement and harassment.”
On April 23, 2023, two Chinese coast guard vessels intercepted Philippine patrol boats and “exhibited aggressive tactics” near Second Thomas Shoal, locally known as Ayungin Shoal, according to the Philippine Coast Guard.
Beijing claimed the Philippine vessels trespassed in Chinese waters near the shoal and approached a Chinese vessel.
The PRC has competing claims in the South China Sea with nations including Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam. In 2016, an international tribunal ruled in favor of Manila and against Beijing’s arbitrary and sweeping maritime claims in the strategic waterway, but the PRC has refused to honor the ruling.
Kritenbrink said the U.S. would continue to monitor Beijing’s “provocative” conduct in the South China Sea. “But most importantly, we will continue to stand with our Filipino allies, and we will continue to operate together,” he said.
Under their 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty, the U.S. has committed to defend the Philippines in case of any armed attack on its military, public vessels or aircraft.
Kritenbrink also rejected Chinese officials’ complaints over Manila’s recent decision to grant the U.S. greater access to local sites under the allies’ 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, including locations closer to self-governed Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its territory.
“I am confident that the U.S. and the Philippines share a vision for a peaceful and stable region,” he said. “We support the maintenance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. We oppose unilateral efforts to change the status quo by either side, and we insist that cross-strait differences be resolved peacefully. Peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait is a matter of international concern.”
During their summit, Marcos and President Biden discussed issues including food security, climate change, trade and investment, and defense cooperation.
Also in early May 2023, Washington announced it intends to transfer four patrol vessels and three C-130H transport aircraft to support the Philippines’ modernization of its maritime and tactical lift capabilities.
IMAGE CREDIT: THE ASSOCIATED PRESS