The United States warned China on Wednesday against what the Philippines and Taiwan see as increasingly aggressive moves and reminds Beijing of Washington’s obligations to its partners.
“An armed attack on the Philippines’ armed forces, public ships or aircraft in the Pacific, including in the South China Sea, will trigger our obligations under the US-Philippines Treaty on Mutual Defense,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters.
“We share the concerns of our Philippine allies over the continued reported mass exodus of the Chinese navy near Whitsun Reef,” Price said, referring to the People’s Republic of China.
More than 200 Chinese boats were first spotted on March 7 at Whitsun Reef, about 320 kilometers (200 miles) west of Palawan Island in the disputed South China Sea, although many have since spread across the Spratly Islands.
This is Gaven Reef, one of China’s 7 artificial islands in the South China Sea.
I joined another maritime patrol today and saw this – more than 100 Chinese fishing vessels being collected by Gaven alone.
It’s not just about the islands anymore. The swarm is here. @ Abscbnnews pic.twitter.com/trM1Vci25U
– Chiara Zambrano (@chiarazambrano) April 3, 2021
China, which claims almost the entire resource-rich sea, has refused for weeks with appeals from the Philippines to withdraw ships, which Manila says has illegally entered its exclusive economic zone.
Tensions have also risen with Taiwan, which Beijing claims is part of China, with autonomous democracy on Wednesday reporting that another 15 of the mainland planes crossed into the island’s air defense zone.
Price expressed “concern” over the Chinese movements, saying: “The United States retains the ability to resist any resort to violence or other forms of coercion that would jeopardize the security or social or economic system of the people of Taiwan.”
He used language from the Taiwan Relations Act, according to which the United States is obliged to provide the island with the means to defend itself against Beijing.
President Joe Biden has promised a robust defense of the Allies, and in a rare point of continuity with his predecessor Donald Trump, he has strongly opposed Chinese self-confidence.