President Joe Biden affirmed the U.S. government’s commitment to defend the Philippines in the event of any attack by China following recent maritime collisions in the disputed South China Sea.
Biden's commitment: In remarks made during a White House press conference along with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Wednesday, Biden invoked the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty, which binds the two nations to jointly defend themselves against external armed attacks. The pledge came in the wake of two collisions between Filipino and Chinese vessels in the contested region on Sunday morning.
“I want to be very clear: The United States’ defense commitment to the Philippines is ironclad,” Biden said. “Any attack on the Filipino aircraft, vessels, or armed forces will invoke our Mutual Defense Treaty with the Philippines.”
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China's response: China swiftly responded to Biden's announcement, with Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning asserting that the U.S. had no right to interfere in issues between China and the Philippines.
"The US defense commitment to the Philippines should not undermine China’s sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in South China Sea, nor should it support the illegal claims of the Philippines," Mao told the AFP.
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About the collision: The Philippines’ National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) reported on Monday that "dangerous blocking maneuvers" by Chinese vessels resulted in a collision with the Armed Forces of the Philippines-contracted resupply boat and a Philippine Coast Guard ship, according to Inquirer.
During the incident, the Philippine ships were reportedly conducting a resupply mission to BRP Sierra Madre, a World War II-era landing ship that had been grounded and turned into a forward outport at Second Thomas Shoal, locally called Ayungin Shoal.
The NTF-WPS condemned the Chinese ships' actions, asserting that they were in violation of Philippine sovereignty and international maritime laws. In response, the China Coast Guard claimed that the Philippine vessels had trespassed into the region, justifying their actions as a response to these alleged violations.
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Strategic U.S. ally: The Philippines borders critical flashpoints in the Pacific, including the South China Sea and Taiwan. Since the inauguration of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in June 2022, the Philippines has taken a more assertive stance against China's actions in the contested regions.
The U.S. and the Philippines recently agreed on new guidelines for their 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty, specifically mentioning that mutual defense commitments would be invoked in the event of an armed attack on either country "anywhere in the South China Sea."
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