President Joe Biden warned the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) on Oct. 25 not to attack Philippine vessels in the South China Sea, stating that any attack on the U.S. ally would trigger Washington’s mutual defense treaty with Manila.
The warnings come after officials in the Philippines claimed that Chinese ships blocked two Philippine vessels on a resupply mission on Oct. 22 in the highly disputed South China Sea, resulting in two collisions.
At the White House during a joint news conference with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, President Biden noted the recent unlawful incidents and warned that the United States would be forced to intervene if Beijing continued its dangerous attacks on the vessels.
However, he stressed the United States was "not looking for conflict" with the CCP.
"Just this past week, the [People's Republic of China] vessels acted dangerously and unlawfully as our Philippine friends conducted a routine resupply mission within their own exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea," he said.
"I want to be very clear: The United States’ defense commitment to the Philippines is ironclad," he said. "Any attack on the Filipino aircraft, vessels, or armed forces will invoke our mutual defense treaty with the Philippines."
That treaty between the United States and the Philippines, a former U.S. colony, was signed in 1951.
'Dangerous Blocking Maneuvers'The treaty states that "each Party recognizes that an armed attack in the Pacific area on either of the Parties would be dangerous to its own peace and safety and declares that it would act to meet the common dangers in accordance with its constitutional processes."
The first collision occurred when the Philippine boat—which was attempting to deliver supplies to troops stationed at the Second Thomas Shoal, known locally as Ayungin Shoal—had its path blocked by the Chinese coast guard ship.
The Second Thomas Shoal is located roughly 105 nautical miles from the Philippines' Palawan Province, making it part of the country's jurisdiction.
However, China claims the South China Sea almost in its entirety, including the Second Thomas Shoal area.
'Blatant Violation of International Law'At a news conference in the wake of the incidents, the Philippines' defense minister, Gilberto Teodoro Jr., accused the Chinese boats of having "harassed and intentionally hit" the Philippine vessels "in blatant violation of international law."
China's foreign ministry, however, accused the Philippine vessels of having "intruded" on the waters of the Second Thomas Shoal "without China's permission" and in "disregard of the warnings of the China Coast Guard (CCG) vessels."
President Biden's warning came one day before Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi's planned visit to Washington on Oct. 26, the latest move by Washington and Beijing as part of efforts to improve tense bilateral relations and enhance communication.
According to China's foreign ministry, Mr. Wang will have "in-depth exchanges of views with U.S. high-level officials on bilateral relations and regional and international issues of shared interests" and "friendly communication with various quarters in the U.S. and state China’s principled position and legitimate concerns on the bilateral relations. "