MANILA, Philippines — The United States renewed a warning that it would defend its treaty ally if Filipino forces come under attack in the disputed South China Sea, after a Chinese coast guard ship is believed to have hit a Philippine patrol vessel with military-grade laser that briefly blinded some of its crew.
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. summoned Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian Tuesday in Manila to express his serious concern “over the increasing frequency and intensity of actions by China against the Philippine coast guard and fishermen,” Communications Secretary Cheloy Garafil said without elaborating.
The Department of Foreign Affairs separately sent a statement to the Chinese Embassy that “condemned the shadowing, harassment, dangerous maneuvers, directing of military-grade laser, and illegal radio challenges” by the Chinese ship.
The incident took place Feb. 6. when the Chinese coast guard ship beamed high-grade lasers to block the Philippine patrol vessel BRP Malapascua from approaching Second Thomas Shoal on a resupply mission to Filipino forces there, according to Philippine officials.
China claims the South China Sea in its entirety. Chinese naval forces have been accused of using military-grade lasers previously against Australian military aircraft on patrol in the South China Sea and other spots in the Pacific.
Despite friendly overtures to Beijing by former Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and his successor, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., tensions have persisted, drawing in closer military alliance between the Philippines and the U.S.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said Monday a Philippine coast guard vessel trespassed into Chinese waters without permission. Chinese coast guard vessels responded “professionally and with restraint at the site in accordance with China’s law and international law,” he said, without elaborating or mentioning the use of laser.
U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said China’s “dangerous operational behavior … infringes upon freedom of navigation in the South China Sea as guaranteed under international law and undermines the rules-based international order.”
He said 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 a 1951 treaty.
Information for this article was contributed by Matthew Lee of The Associated Press.
This photo provided by the Philippine Coast Guard shows a Chinese coast guard ship in the disputed South China Sea, Monday, Feb. 6, 2023. The Philippines on Monday, Feb. 13, accused a Chinese coast guard ship of hitting a Philippine coast guard vessel with a military-grade laser and temporarily blinding some of its crew in the disputed South China Sea, calling it a “blatant” violation of Manila’s sovereign rights. (Philippine Coast Guard via AP)
CORRECTS THE PHOTOGRAPHER TO CAYLEN MCCUTCHEON, NOT JUSTIN MCTAGGART – Aircraft from the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz and the USS Makin Island fly in formation past Nimitz in the South China Sea, Sunday, Feb. 12, 2023, as Nimitz and Makin Island with embarked 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit were conducting operations. The 7th Fleet based in Japan said Sunday that the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier strike group and the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit have been conducting “integrated expeditionary strike force operations” in the South China Sea. (Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Caylen McCutcheon/U.S. Navy via AP)
An MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter lands aboard the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz in the South China Sea, Sunday, Feb. 12, 2023, as Nimitz in U.S. 7th Fleet was conducting operations. The 7th Fleet based in Japan said Sunday that the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier strike group and the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit have been conducting “integrated expeditionary strike force operations” in the South China Sea. (Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Justin McTaggart/U.S. Navy via AP)
Source: NWA Online