The United States on Saturday called upon China to stop “provocative and unsafe conduct” in the disputed South China Sea after a recent near-collision with a Philippines coast guard boat ramping up rhetoric ahead of a visit by the Filipino president to the White House.
In a statement two days before President Joe Biden is to host his Philippine counterpart Ferdinand Marcos Jr, State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said the incident was a reminder of China’s “harassment and intimidation” of Philippine vessels in the contested waterway.
“We call upon Beijing to desist from its provocative and unsafe conduct,” he said, adding that any attack on Philippine armed forces would trigger a US response.
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As per a report by the news agency AFP, a Chinese vessel, twice in size, came in the way of one of the two Philippines coast guard ships in a near-collision incident.
Beijing has been claiming sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea, overlooking an international ruling that the assertion has no legal basis.
Joe Biden has been working to bolster relations with Asian allies as the US-Chinese relationship remains in a historically deep chill, and the Philippines’ proximity to key sea lanes and Taiwan gives it particular strategic importance.
As per the AFP report, its journalists along with several other media outlets were invited to join two Philippine Coast Guard boats on a six-day patrol of the waters, visiting a dozen islands and reefs.
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As one boat, the BRP Malapascua, with Filipino journalists on board, neared Second Thomas Shoal, known in China as Ren’ai Jiao, in the Spratly archipelago, a Chinese Coast Guard vessel more than twice its size sailed into its path.
As per the commanding officer on board Malapascua’s the Chinese ship came within 45 metres of his boat and only his quick actions avoided the steel-hulled vessels crashing into each other.
China, however, claimed that the Filipino boats “intruded” without Beijing’s permission and called it a “premeditated and provocative action”. Manila hit back, saying “routine patrols in our own waters can be neither premeditated or provocative.”