Sen. Schmitt Urges Pentagon to Help Philippines Counter China’s ‘Aggressive Behavior’

Aldgra Fredly
By Aldgra Fredly
March 6, 2024China News
Sen. Schmitt Urges Pentagon to Help Philippines Counter China’s ‘Aggressive Behavior’
In this handout photo, a Chinese coast guard ship approaches a Philippine coast guard ship, foreground, causing a minor collision, in the vicinity of Second Thomas Shoal on March 5, 2024. (Philippine Coast Guard via AP)

Sen. Eric Schmitt (R-Mo.) on Tuesday urged the U.S. Department of Defense to “move quickly” to help the Philippines counter China’s ongoing “aggressive behavior” in the disputed South China Sea.

This comes after the recent standoff between Philippine and Chinese ships in Second Thomas Shoal, during which Chinese ships fired water cannons at a Philippine supply boat, injuring four crew members.

In a letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on March 5, which was shared by Fox News, Mr. Schmitt voiced “serious concerns” about China’s “increasing volume and intensity of confrontations” in the disputed sea.

“I request the Department of Defense to move quickly to support the Philippines in countering China’s aggressive behavior,” the Missouri senator stated in his letter.

Mr. Schmitt noted that the latest confrontation in Second Thomas Shoal followed a “string of aggressive efforts by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to assert its unlawful territorial claims in the South China Sea.”

The senator requested that the department provide Congress with “a comprehensive plan” on how the United States can help the Philippines counter China’s “unlawful actions” in the region.

“The Biden administration has upheld the Trump administration’s position that an attack on Philippine public vessels, aircraft, and armed forces would invoke U.S. mutual defense commitments under Article IV of the 1951 U.S.-Philippine Mutual Defense Treaty,” he stated.

Mr. Schmitt said that he looks forward to receiving a response and working with the department to ensure that the Philippines can fend off Chinese encroachment into its sovereign territory.

The latest standoff between Philippine and Chinese vessels happened while a Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) ship was conducting a routine resupply mission to troops stationed in Second Thomas Shoal on March 5.

Manila’s South China Sea Task Force said that a Chinese coast guard ship conducted “dangerous blocking maneuvers,” leading to a minor collision that caused “superficial structural damage” to the PCG vessel’s hull.

Later that day, two Chinese ships fired water cannons simultaneously against a Philippine supply boat, shattering its windshield and causing minor injuries to four personnel. The task force said the “unprovoked acts of coercion” and “dangerous maneuvers” by the Chinese ships called into question “the sincerity of its calls for peaceful dialogue and lessening of tensions.”

“Peace and stability cannot be achieved without due regard for the legitimate, well-established, and legally settled rights of others,” it stated.

The Philippine Foreign Ministry said that it had summoned Zhou Zhiyong, China’s deputy chief of mission of the Chinese embassy in Manila, in protest and to demand that Chinese vessels immediately vacate the Second Thomas Shoal.

NTD Photo
A Chinese Coast Guard ship uses water cannons on Philippine navy-operated supply boat M/L Kalayaan as it approaches Second Thomas Shoal, locally known as Ayungin Shoal, in the disputed South China Sea on Dec. 10, 2023. (Philippine Coast Guard via AP)

United States Denounces CCP’s ‘Provocative Actions’

State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said that the United States stands with its ally the Philippines and denounces the CCP’s “provocative actions” in the contested South China Sea.

“The PRC’s (People’s Republic of China) actions again show disregard for the safety and livelihoods of Filipinos and international law,” Mr. Miller said in a statement.

Mr. Miller warned Beijing that any attack on Philippine armed forces, public vessels, and aircraft in the South China Sea would trigger a U.S. mutual defense treaty with the Philippines.

The CCP laid the blame on the Philippines, saying that Philippine ships had illegally intruded into waters adjacent to the Second Thomas Shoal, prompting it to take control measures.

The Second Thomas Shoal, which Manila refers to as Ayungin Shoal and China calls Renai Reef, is located roughly 105 nautical miles from the Philippines’ Palawan Province, making it part of the country’s jurisdiction.

The 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, to which China is a signatory, designates maritime areas within 200 nautical miles (230 miles) of coastal nations’ borders as part of their exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Beijing has asserted territorial claims over nearly the entire South China Sea, including reefs and islands that overlap with the EEZs of Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Taiwan, and the Philippines.

Reuters contributed to this report.

From The Epoch Times

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