U.S. Responds After Tensions Escalate Between China & Philippines

As diplomatic tensions between Manila and Beijing over South China Sea territorial claims rise, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in the Philippines on Monday, March 18th.

The week before, China claimed it had historical entitlements to the international waters after a spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry claimed China was the first nation to find, name, explore, and exploit these waters. The Philippines Department of Foreign Affairs rebuked these baseless and misleading claims on Sunday.

The statement from the agency emphasized the Philippines’ unwavering stance against careless assertions and acts that infringe upon Philippine sovereignty and authority inside its maritime domain.

Although countries like Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam have internationally accepted Exclusive Economic Zones in the South China Sea, China has repeatedly attempted to exert authority in this area in recent years.

Blinken expressed the allies’ shared concern at a March 20th joint news conference in Manila with his Philippine equivalent that the actions of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) endanger their shared vision for an open and free Indo-Pacific, particularly in the South China Sea and the Philippines’ EEZ.

He made it clear that the waterways in question are vital not only to the Philippines, its economy, and security but also to regional, American, and global interests. He also said that their repeated violations of Philippine and international law with blocking maneuvers, water cannons, and stalking constituted dangerous operations.

Disputes over territorial claims in the canal have escalated into violent confrontations between Philippine boats, marine militia groups, and Chinese coast guards, casting doubt on the region’s stability.

Reports reveal that a Philippine vessel sustained serious damage and an unknown number of casualties when Chinese ships fired water cannons at it during Manila’s most recent resupply operation to the South China Sea outpost on Second Thomas Shoal on March 23rd.

China maintains unchallenged control over almost the 1.3 million square miles of the South China Sea, which is rich in natural resources, even though a global court in The Hague ruled against it in 2016.