World ‘Untapped weapon’: Philippine leaders warn China by touting defense treaty with US
China sends hundreds of ships into Philippine waters, pushing Duterte back toward US
China’s deployment of a “maritime militia” fleet to a disputed reef in the South China Sea has provoked Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte’s team to criticize Beijing, a rhetorical sea change that coincides with President Joe Biden’s attempt to rehabilitate military cooperation with Manila. © Provided by Washington Examiner Duterte, a brash populist who disliked President Barack Obama and called for a “separation” from the United States in 2016, tends to soften the rebukes that Philippine national security officials issue when China infringes on Manila’s sovereignty or economic rights.
Ainvolving a fleet of Chinese maritime militia ships in disputed waters has raised the prospect of Philippine officials a defense treaty with the United States, according to defense officials and lawmakers.
“Both parties are committed to undertake their obligations under the Mutual Defense Treaty,” Philippine Department of National Defense spokesman Arsenio AndolongThursday. “As the situation in the West Philippine Sea evolves, we keep all our options open in managing the situation, including leveraging our partnerships with other nations such as the United States.”
US and China deploy aircraft carriers in South China Sea as Philippines prepares for joint exercises
Military activity in the South China Sea spiked over the weekend a Chinese aircraft carrier entered the region and a US Navy expeditionary strike group wrapped up exercises. © Petty Officer 3rd Class Arthur Rosen/US Navy US Navy Cmdr. Robert J. Briggs and Cmdr. Richard D. Slye monitor the Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning from the pilothouse guided-missile destroyer USS Mustin on April 4 in the Philippine Sea.
President Joe Biden and then-President Donald Trump’s administrations have affirmed that the 1951 pactto disputes with China in the South China Sea, while the renewed discussion of the treaty suggests that watchful U.S. and Philippine strategists will hold Beijing responsible for violence committed by unconventional forces. Cooperation between Washington and Manila has been hampered in recent years by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s apparent for the U.S., an aversion that was on display this week even as threats from China raise the stakes of the alliance.
“An armed attack against the Philippines armed forces, public vessels, or aircraft in the Pacific, including in the South China Sea, will trigger our obligations under the U.S.-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said Wednesday. "We share the concerns of our Philippine allies regarding the continued reported amassing of PRC maritime militia near Whitsun Reef, and we have seen the reports that vessels have also spread to other parts of the South China Sea.”
Philippines warns China of ‘unwanted hostilities’ in sea dispute
Duterte’s top legal counsel warns China’s ‘territorial incursions’ is an ‘unwelcome stain’ in closer ties.More than 200 Chinese boats were first spotted on March 7 at Whitsun Reef, approximately 320 kilometres (175 nautical miles) west of Palawan Island within the Philippines’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
The Philippines is one of the most strategically significant U.S. allies in the world due to historical ties between Washington and Manila and the location of the islands in relation to China’s growing military power. U.S. strategists see the archipelago as a crucial link in a chain of allies that could enable American forces to deter or win a conflict with Beijing, while the loss of the Philippines might empower the communist regime to begin unraveling the American alliance network and expel the U.S. from the Indo-Pacific — one of the most important economic corridors on Earth.
Chinese officials deny that the fleet is a maritime militia, saying that the scores of vessels are fishing ships sheltering from bad weather. China’s claim to sovereignty over most of the South China Sea has put relations with Manila on a slow burn for years, even as Duterte tried to neutralize the controversy by adopting aposture toward Chinese General Secretary Xi Jinping. In that context, Duterte threatens to key treaties with the U.S. and issues rhetorical fusillades against Washington, while defense-minded officials and leaders place a high value on the alliance — as evidenced by at least one prominent senator’s enthusiastic response to the defense department’s mention of the Mutual Defense Treaty.
Philippines Says China Intends to Occupy More Disputed Areas
The presence of China’s “maritime militia” near a South China Sea reef shows Beijing’s intent to occupy more disputed areas, according to a statement from Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana. © Photographer: Ted Aljibe/AFP This photo taken on May 14, 2019, a Philippine coast guard ship (R) sails past a Chinese coastguard ship during an joint search and rescue exercise between Philippine and US coastguards near Scarborough shoal, in the South China Sea.
“Way to go!” Philippine Sen. Panfilo Lacson tweeted Thursday. “The MDT is an untapped weapon in our arsenal to prevent our fish within the Philippines EEZ from being stolen.”
The aversion of the Duterte administration seemed to fade earlier this week, when one of Duterte’s lawyers issued an unusual warning to Beijing.
“We can negotiate on matters of mutual concern and benefit, but make no mistake about it — our sovereignty is non-negotiable,” presidential adviser Salvador Panelothis week.
The Duterte team’s previous approach to Washington resurfaced in the days following Panelo’s statement, however, as presidential spokesman Harry Roque jabbed “noisy ... pro-American” lawmakers and bragged that Duterte had expanded Manila’s network of friends.
"If the president did not come to power, our only BFF will be the Americans,” Roque told a Chinese-Filipino forum, according to. "Have we gotten a single vial of vaccine from the Americans? The answer is No. ... So my question to those noisy within the opposition who are pro-Americans, where's Uncle Sam now?"
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A congressionally mandated commission report obtained by Newsweek shows how an ambitious plan for widespread reform of China's health care infrastructure would not serve millions of Chinese, but "could also help Beijing attain its goal of making China a global leader in healthcare."The 22-page report, produced by the congressionally mandated United States-China Economic and Security Review Commission, is entitled "China's Healthcare System: Addressing Capacity Shortfalls before and after COVID-19.
U.S. Embassy officials in Manilalast month that AstraZeneca vaccine deliveries to the Philippines were subsidized by the American tax dollars, as the U.S. is the world’s largest donor to the international . The Philippines have not yet received any shipments of the Pfizer vaccine because Duterte’s government in arranging the contract, according to Philippine Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin. Chinese officials responded by donating 1 million vaccines to the Philippines and selling another million.
“The Philippines was pretty late on securing its supply,” Center for Strategic and International Studies senior fellow Gregory Poling explained. "So, the Chinese probably have another month or two of being the only vaccine available.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken is gearing up tooverseas, as the Biden administration expects to have enough vaccines stockpiled for every person in the U.S. by May. “We won't trade shots in arms for political favors,” Blinken said this week in an implicit shot at China. “We’ll maintain high standards for the vaccines that we help to bring to others — only distributing those proven to be safe and effective.”
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