The United States on Wednesday warned China against what the Philippines and Taiwan see as increasingly aggressive moves, reminding Beijing of Washington’s obligations to its partners.
“An armed attack against Philippine armed forces, public vessels, or aircraft in the Pacific, including the South China Sea, will trigger our obligations under the United States-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty,” the State Department spokesman Ned Price.
“We share the concern of our Filipino allies about the continued concentration of maritime militias from the People’s Republic of China near Whitsun Reef,” Price said, referring to the People’s Republic of China.
More than 200 Chinese ships were spotted for the first time on March 7 at the Whitsun reef, some 200 miles west of the island of Palawan in the disputed South China Sea, though many have since dispersed across the islands Spratly.
China, which claims almost all of the resource-rich sea, has rejected weeks of calls from the Philippines to withdraw the ships, which Manila says illegally entered its exclusive economic zone.
Tensions have also increased with Taiwan, which Beijing claims as part of China, as the autonomous democracy denounced on Wednesday that 15 other planes from the mainland had entered the island’s air defense zone.
Price expressed “concern” about the Chinese movements, saying: “The United States maintains the ability to resist any recourse to force or other forms of coercion that endangers the security or the social or economic system of the Taiwanese people.”