China, US on the Brink

( – Following recent maritime incidents in the South China Sea, the U.S. reiterated its full commitment to defend the Philippines if faced with a Chinese armed attack. This came after Chinese ships obstructed and collided with two Philippine vessels near a disputed area known as Second Thomas Shoal.

In response to the maritime confrontations, the Philippines summoned a Chinese Embassy official in Manila to express their strong disapproval. Although no one was injured, a Philippine coast guard ship and a supply boat suffered damage due to these encounters.

In response, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. convened an urgent meeting with top military and security officials to deliberate on the rising tensions in the disputed waters. The South China Sea has been a point of contention, with China asserting vast territorial claims that neighboring countries, including the Philippines, oppose. Many of these nations have sought U.S. military assistance as confrontations increase.

After the meeting, Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro criticized China in a press conference, stating, “The Philippine government views the latest aggression by China as a blatant violation of international law.” He continued, “China has no legal right or authority to conduct law enforcement operations in our territorial waters and in our exclusive economic zone.” Teodoro also noted the irony of China hosting discussions to prevent major sea conflicts, given their recent actions, which he termed “a blatant disregard of international law.”

The territorial disputes in the South China Sea involve multiple nations, including China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Brunei. This has become a potential flashpoint amidst the growing rivalry between the U.S. and China.

Details of the confrontation revealed that a blockade formed by Chinese ships tried to prevent Philippine vessels from delivering supplies to Filipino forces stationed at Second Thomas Shoal. During this standoff, two Philippine vessels were hit by Chinese ships, with only one Filipino boat succeeding in its delivery mission.

The U.S. and its allies expressed deep concern over China’s actions. The U.S. State Department affirmed, “The United States stands with our Philippine allies in the face of the People’s Republic of China coast guard and maritime militia’s dangerous and unlawful actions.” The statement also blamed China’s ships for the collisions and condemned their interference with the Philippine vessels’ right to navigate freely.

Furthermore, the U.S. referenced a 2016 ruling that dismissed China’s broad territorial claims in the South China Sea. Although the U.S. does not stake a claim in the disputed waters, it has conducted patrols to ensure freedom of navigation, a move that has drawn the ire of China.