By Bill Allison
(Bloomberg) –The US accused China of harassing Philippine ships and reaffirmed its defense commitment to the Philippines ahead of a visit to Washington by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
“The United States stands with the Philippines,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said in a statement, citing video from media reports of an incident in which two Chinese coast guard vessels blocked Philippine patrol boats in the vicinity of Ayungin shoal on April 23.
Related Article: Chinese And Philippine Coast Guards Nearly Collide
One of the ships carried out “dangerous maneuvers,” coming within 50 yards of the Southeast Asian nation’s boat, according to its coast guard, leading to a near collision.
An armed attack on Philippine armed forces, aircraft or naval vessels would trigger US defense commitments, according to the State Department statement, which said the US will continue to monitor the situation while calling on China to end the “provocative conduct” against Philippine ships on routine patrols in their exclusive economic zone.
Beijing has said that its maneuvers were “professional and restrained.” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said Friday that Philippine vessels were acting provocatively in an effort to blame China for the incident.
The two nations are locked in a territorial dispute over the resource-rich waters and Marcos has stepped up protests of China’s actions. Beijing has maintained that its presence in the area is legitimate, even after an international tribunal dashed its expansive sea claims in 2016.
The incident happened as the US and the Philippines were conducting their largest joint military exercises yet.
Marcos’s government is strengthening its alliance with Washington, recently expanding US access to his nation’s military sites. He’s expected to discuss defense deals with President Joe Biden in a meeting next week.
© 2023 Bloomberg L.P.
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