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Blinken discusses China’s actions in South China Sea with Philippine counterpart

By Thomson Reuters Jun 19, 2024 | 12:57 PM

By Kanishka Singh

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday held a call with Philippine Foreign Secretary Enrique Manalo to discuss China’s actions in the South China Sea, which Manila and Washington have called escalatory.

WHY IT IS IMPORTANT

Britain, Canada and the United States have condemned China’s actions, which occurred as Beijing’s new coast guard rules allowing it to detain trespassers without trial took effect on June 15.

China claims almost the entire South China Sea, which includes the Second Thomas Shoal, where the Philippines maintains a warship, Sierra Madre, beached in 1999 to reinforce its sovereignty claims, with a small crew.

Relations between Manila and Beijing have soured under Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr, with Manila pivoting back towards the United States which supports the Southeast Asian nation in its maritime disputes with China.

Washington’s own ties with Beijing have been tense for years over issues like Taiwan, trade tariffs, the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine, technology disputes and intellectual property, among others.

KEY QUOTES

Blinken and Manalo’s discussion “followed (China’s) dangerous and irresponsible actions to deny the Philippines from executing a lawful maritime operation in the South China Sea on June 17,” the State Department said in a statement after the call.

Blinken emphasized that China’s actions “undermine regional peace and stability and underscored the United States’ ironclad commitments to the Philippines under our Mutual Defense Treaty,” the State Department said.

CONTEXT

A Philippine sailor suffered serious injury after what its military described as “intentional-high speed ramming” by the Chinese Coast Guard, aiming to disrupt a routine resupply mission on June 17. The Philippine military also said the incident damaged Manila’s vessels.

China’s Coast Guard disputed that, saying Manila’s vessel deliberately and dangerously approached a Chinese ship in an unprofessional manner, forcing it to take control measures, including “boarding inspections and forced evictions”.

(Reporting by Kanishka Singh; Editing by Sandra Maler)