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U.S. Support for the Philippines in the South China Sea

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The United States stands with its ally the Philippines and condemns the dangerous actions by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) against lawful Philippine maritime operations in the South China Sea on March 23.  PRC ships’ repeated employment of water cannons and reckless blocking maneuvers resulted in injuries to Filipino service members and significant damage to their resupply vessel, rendering it immobile.  The PRC’s actions prevent normal personnel rotations and deprive Filipino service members at Second Thomas Shoal of necessary provisions.  This incident marks only the latest in the PRC’s repeated obstruction of Philippine vessels’ exercise of high seas freedom of navigation and disruption of supply lines to this longstanding outpost.

The PRC’s actions are destabilizing to the region and show clear disregard for international law.  According to an international tribunal’s legally binding decision issued in July 2016, the PRC has no lawful maritime claims to the waters around Second Thomas Shoal and Second Thomas Shoal is a low tide feature clearly within the Philippines exclusive economic zone.  As provided under the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention, the 2016 arbitral decision is final and legally binding on the PRC and the Philippines, and the United States calls upon the PRC to abide by the ruling and desist from its dangerous and destabilizing conduct.

The United States reaffirms that Article IV of the 1951 U.S.-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty extends to armed attacks on Philippine armed forces, public vessels, or aircraft – including those of its Coast Guard – anywhere in the South China Sea.

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