WASHINGTON: The Philippines’ removal of a Chinese floating barrier close to the Scarborough Shoal in a disputed a part of the South China Sea was “a daring step in defending their very own sovereignty”, a senior US defence official mentioned on Thursday (Sep 28).
Manila had expressed outrage over China’s placement of an extended, ball-buoy barrier close to the rocky outcrop, some 200km from the Philippines. It has seen years of intermittent flare-ups over sovereignty and fishing rights.
The Philippines coast guard mentioned on Monday it executed a “particular operation” to take away the barrier, calling it a violation of worldwide legislation and a hazard to navigation.
Throughout a congressional listening to, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Protection for South and Southeast Asia Lindsey Ford counseled the Philippines’ motion and reaffirmed Washington’s safety commitments to its Asian ally.
“The division has been extremely clear that relating to our treaty commitments to the Philippines, we consider an armed assault in opposition to Philippine Armed Forces, public vessels, plane, apply to the South China Sea. That features the Philippine Coast Guard,” Ford instructed a Home of Representatives subcommittee on overseas affairs.
“We stand by these commitments completely,” she mentioned.
The Chinese language coastguard late on Wednesday disputed the Philippine version of the events, saying the Chinese language aspect had retrieved the barrier on Saturday after deploying it a day earlier when a Philippine vessel “illegally” entered the world.
China’s overseas ministry has defended the actions of its coast guard as “vital measures” after a Philippine bureau of fisheries vessel “intruded” into its waters on Friday.
The incident highlights the strained relations between China and the Philippines at a time when Manila is quickly strengthening army ties with Washington.
Ford mentioned the US was “thrilled” in regards to the implementation of the Enhanced Protection Cooperation Settlement, a deal reached earlier this yr between Manila and Washington that offers the US entry to 4 extra army bases within the Philippines.
Management of the strategic Scarborough Shoal, seized in 2012 by China, is a delicate difficulty because it fashioned a part of a authorized case filed by the Philippines on the Everlasting Courtroom of Arbitration within the Hague. The courtroom dominated in 2016 that Beijing’s declare to 90 per cent of the South China Sea had no foundation underneath worldwide legislation.
China has refused to recognise the landmark ruling.