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US talking to the Philippines about recent 'provocative actions' by China, State Dept says

US talking to the Philippines about recent 'provocative actions' by China, State Dept says

WASHINGTON—The United States is talking to the Philippines about recent "provocative actions" by China, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said on Tuesday, after Manila's South China Sea task force said Philippine vessels were "harassed (and) blocked" by Chinese maritime militia and coast guard ships on Tuesday.

"The United States stands with our Philippine allies in the face of these dangerous and unlawful actions," Miller told reporters.

In a statement, Miller said the US reaffirms its Mutual Defense Treaty with the Philippines following the actions of Chinese vessels in the South China Sea.

"The United States reaffirms that Article IV of the 1951 US-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty extends to armed attacks on Philippine armed forces, public vessels, or aircraft—including those of its Coast Guard—anywhere in the South China Sea," he said.

Under the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT), the two countries agree that an armed attack in the Pacific area on either the Philippines or the US would be dangerous and that they would act to meet the common dangers in accordance with its constitutional processes.

According to Miller, the US condemns the repeated blocking by Chinese vessels against Philippines ships.

"We condemn the PRC's (People's Republic of China's) repeated obstruction of Philippine vessels' exercise of high seas freedom of navigation and its disruption of supply lines to this longstanding outpost," he said.

"The PRC's actions again show disregard for the safety and livelihoods of Filipinos and international law," he added.

Citing the 2016 international tribunal decision, he said China has no lawful maritime claims around Second Thomas Shoal.

"As provided under the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention, the 2016 arbitral decision is final and legally binding on the PRC and the Philippines, and the United States calls upon the PRC to abide by the ruling and desist from its dangerous and destabilizing conduct," he added.

On Tuesday, four people were injured after two China Coast Guard (CCG) vessels water cannoned a Philippine boat on a resupply mission to BRP Sierra Madre in Second Thomas Shoal.

"The use of water cannons by the CCG vessels shattered the wind shield of Unaizah May 4, causing minor injuries to at least four personnel on board," the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) said.



Two Chinese coast guard ships simultaneously fired water cannons, shattering the windshield of one of the resupply boats and causing minor injuries to at least four crew members, the task force said.

Their "reckless" and "illegal" actions also led to a collision between a Chinese and Philippine ship, with the latter sustaining minor structural damage, according to Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) spokesperson for the West Philippine Sea Commodore Jay Tarriela on Tuesday.

Aside from this, Philippine Coast Guard vessel BRP Sindangan, which escorted the resupply mission, sustained damage after a collision with CCG vessel 21555.

According to the task force, the Chinese vessel performed dangerous blocking maneuvers against BRP Sindangan.

BRP Sierra Madre has been grounded at the Ayungin Shoal since 1999. It is manned by a small group of Marines and sailors. It has become a symbol of Philippine sovereignty in the offshore territory.

Ayungin Shoal is part of the Kalayaan Island Group as well as the Philippines' exclusive economic zone and continental shelf.

The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said it had summoned the Chinese diplomat on Tuesday to convey its protest and to demand that Chinese vessels immediately leave the vicinity of the Second Thomas Shoal, which Manila calls Ayungin Shoal.

"China's interference with the Philippines' routine and lawful activities in its own exclusive economic zone is unacceptable," the DFA said in a statement. "China's actions in Ayungin Shoal infringes upon the Philippines' sovereign rights and jurisdiction."

China laid the blame on Manila, saying Philippine ships had illegally intruded into waters adjacent to the Second Thomas Shoal - which it calls Renai Reef—so it had to take control measures.

The Chinese action was also condemned Tuesday by the United States, Japan, Australia, and the European Union.

Resupply missions to the BRP Sierra Madre have become increasingly difficult as Chinese vessels have been disrupting the passage of Philippine vessels to the area.

China claims most of the South China Sea, parts of which are also claimed by the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam, and Indonesia.

In 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration invalidated China's claim in a ruling on a case brought by the Philippines, which Beijing rejects. — with a report from Joviland Rita/BP/KBK/VDV, GMA Integrated News