US President Joe Biden has issued a stern warning to China, declaring that the United States will stand by the Philippines in the event of any aggression in the disputed South China Sea.
This statement comes after a series of maritime incidents involving Philippine and Chinese vessels in disputed waters.
President Biden emphasized the unwavering nature of America's commitment to the Philippines, describing it as "ironclad."
Manila has contested China's territorial claims in the region, taking actions such as removing floating barriers and allowing media coverage to highlight what it sees as dangerous maneuvers by Beijing in the area.
President Biden's statement is the strongest yet since the escalation of tensions between Beijing and Manila in recent months. He reaffirmed the enduring power of the US-Philippines defense agreement, a pact created in 1951.
This mutual defense treaty binds the United States and the Philippines to mutual defense in the event of an armed attack.
The President made it clear that any aggression against Philippine aircraft, ships or armed forces would trigger the Mutual Defense Treaty with the Philippines. He made this statement during a speech at the White House while waiting for Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.
In response, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Mao Ning asserted that the United States had no right to interfere in matters between China and the Philippines.
She also stressed that if the US chooses to defend the Philippines, it must avoid actions that would violate China's sovereignty and maritime interests in the South China Sea.
In a separate development, the Philippines reported that "dangerous maneuvers" by China had resulted in a collision between a Chinese coast guard vessel and a Philippine supply boat inside the Philippines' Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
There was also an incident where a Chinese militia boat reportedly came into contact with a Philippine Coast Guard vessel. These Filipino boats were on their way to a decommissioned Navy warship strategically located in the Second Thomain to reinforce Philippine territorial claims.
Philippine Defense Minister Gilberto Teodoro Jr. , accused China of deliberately striking Philippine ships and accused them of distorting the facts to suit their agenda. President Biden echoed these sentiments, stating that the actions of the Chinese ships were reckless and illegal.
The Philippines has an important strategic position as an ally of the United States, given its proximity to potential flashpoints in the Pacific, namely the South China Sea and Taiwan.
Since President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. took office in June 2022 and renewed the Philippines' alliance with the United States, Philippine authorities have shown a more assertive stance in opposing China's actions in the South China Sea.
It marks a departure from the pro-China stance of his predecessor, Rodrigo Duterte, who faced criticism for what were perceived as inadequate measures to counter China's assertiveness in the region.
Duterte had refrained from invoking the Philippines' legal victory against China at an international court, which had declared Beijing's sweeping claims over the South China Sea unfounded.