US official calls out China’s conduct provocative, unsafe

The United States has called out China’s conduct as provocative and unsafe, said a statement from the US Department of State on the latest incident between the Philippine Coast Guard and Chinese Coast Guard in the South China Sea on Feb. 6, 2023.

The US Department of State Spokesperson Edward “Ned” Price, in a statement released on Feb. 13, 2023 (Feb.14, 2023 PH time), said that the US supports the Philippines against China’s Coast Guard’s (CCG) demeanor when the latter reportedly used a laser device against the crewmembers of the BRP Malapascua on Feb. 6, 2023. The incident resulted in the temporary blindness of the crew, the statement also said.

China’s conduct as provocative

Also in a statement, Price calls out China’s Coast Guard conduct as “provocative and unsafe, interfering with the Philippines’ lawful operations in and around Second Thomas Shoal.”

Price also said that China’s conduct from a broader perspective “directly threatens regional peace and stability, infringes upon freedom of navigation in the South China Sea as guaranteed under international law, and undermines the rules-based international order.”

Furthermore, the US maintains and reiterates that the decision of the international tribunal issued on July 2016 is “final and legally binding” on China and the Philippines.

China, the US maintained in its statement, “has no lawful maritime claims to Second Thomas Shoal,” under the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention and the 2016 arbitral decision. Hence, the US calls upon China to “abide by the ruling.”

Moreover, the US reaffirms to invoke mutual defense commitments to the Philippines in times of an armed attack on the Philippine armed forces.

“The United States stands with our Philippine allies in upholding the rules-based international maritime order and reaffirms an armed attack on Philippine armed forces, public vessels, or aircraft, including those of the Coast Guard in the South China Sea, would invoke U.S. mutual defense commitments under Article IV of the 1951 U.S. Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty,” the statement said.

Protect sovereignty, rights

Meanwhile, the Philippine Coast Guard said in a statement on Feb. 13, 2023, on the incident on Feb. 6, 2023, that it continued to protect Philippine sovereignty and rights in the West Philippine Sea.

“The PCG will continue to exercise due diligence in protecting the country’s territorial integrity against foreign aggression. . . . Despite the dangerous maneuver of the much larger CCG ships and their aggressive actions at sea, the PCG ships will always be in the West Philippine Sea to sustain our presence and assert our sovereign rights,” said the PCG Commandant Admiral Artemio Abu. RQJ


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