US Issues Warning After New Clash in the South China Sea

( – The Biden administration renewed a warning on June 18 that the U.S. remains obliged to defend its close treaty ally, the Philippines, following a dispute between China and the Philippines in a disputed shoal in the South China Sea. The clash ended with severe damage to the Filipino navy’s supply boats and some of its personnel injured.

During a press conference, US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said that Deputy Secretary of State Kurt Campbell discussed the actions taken by the Chinese regime in a phone conversation with his Filipino counterpart Maria Lazaro. Both agreed that what China did was dangerous and represented a threat to stability and peace in the region.

Following the dispute, which took place on June 17, the Philippines and China have blamed each other for escalating hostilities in the Second Thomas Shoal. According to Filipino authorities, the Chinese Coast Guard rammed their ships and deployed troops armed with machetes and axes onto them. The actions have since been compared to piracy.

Over the last few years, a Filipino grounded warship that carries a small navy contingent has been occupying the submerged reef, with the Chinese navy, militia ships, and coast guard closely watching it. Geopolitical experts have been warning that the dispute could significantly raise hostilities between the two Asian nations, potentially leading to an armed conflict that may greatly destabilize the region.

Miller also said that during the phone call between Campbell and Lazaro, the deputy secretary reaffirmed that the Mutual Defense Treaty extends to every armed attack on the Philippines’ public vessels, aircraft, and armed forces in the South China Sea. The treaty, signed in 1951, obligated the United States and the Philippines to defend each other in armed conflicts.

In a statement, a Filipino task force that oversees the disputes between the two Asian nations condemned the “dangerous maneuvers” taken by the Chinese maritime forces, which were described as reckless, aggressive, and illegal. The task force added that despite the threatening actions, the Filipino personnel showed “professionalism” and restraint, carrying on with their mission instead of escalating tensions.

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