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Brawner: No need to invoke MDT with US despite China's water cannon attacks

The Philippine military on Tuesday said it is not yet time to invoke the country's Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) with the United States despite China's water cannon attacks on Philippine vessels in the West Philippine Sea.

Interviewed on Unang Balita, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. said the MDT could only be invoked when there is an armed attack involved.

"Hindi pa naman kelangan i-invoke 'yung MDT kasi doon sa Mutual Defense Treaty natin, nakasaad doon na kapag merong armed attack," Brawner said. 

(There is no need to invoke the MDT yet because under the MDT there should be an armed attack.)

"'Yung water cannoning is not considered an armed attack," he added.

The MDT is a 70-year-old accord between the Philippines and the US that binds Washington to defend Manila from any aggression.

According to Brawner, who personally joined Sunday's resupply mission, China engages in what is termed as "gray zone tactics," which refer to the use of non-military means to achieve political objectives.

"Pero sa atin ang tawag natin doon is (But what we call it is) illegal, coercive, aggressive, dangerous and deceptive actions," he said.

On Sunday, a Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) vessel rammed and water cannoned Philippine vessels that were conducting a resupply mission to BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal.

The attack prompted the Philippine government to file another diplomatic protest against China and summon its ambassador.

More PH-US exercises eyed

Meanwhile, General CQ Brown Jr., chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke with Brawner on phone on Tuesday (PH time) regarding assessments of the regional security environment, including China's actions against the Philippine resupply mission in Ayungin Shoal.

"The leaders also discussed mutual strategic security interests and opportunities for increased military cooperation, including enhancing maritime cooperation, improving interoperability and information sharing, and increasing training and exercises, according to Joint Staff spokesperson Navy Capt. Jereal Dorsey.

Dorsey said the two agreed to remain in "close consultation."

"The US continues to closely partner with the Philippines and remains committed to maintaining a relationship founded upon shared strategic interests and democratic values," Dorsey said.

The conversation with Brawner was their first since Brown became chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff.

UK condemns China

Britain, meanwhile, condemned what it called "unsafe and escalatory tactics deployed by Chinese vessels" against the Philippines over the weekend.

"The UK opposes any action which raises tensions, including harassment, unsafe conduct and intimidation tactics which increase the risk of miscalculation and threaten regional peace and stability," the foreign office said in a statement.

"Both China and the Philippines must adhere to the findings of the 2016 Arbitral Award proceedings, which are legally binding on both parties, it added.

A spokesperson at the Chinese Embassy in London said Beijing firmly opposes and strongly condemns the UK's "groundless accusations," and has lodged stern representations with the British side on this.  —with Reuters/KBK, GMA Integrated News