US, Japan, Australia, PH call out China over activities in WPS

US, Japan, Australia, PH call out China over activities in WPS
AP file

THE United States, Japan, Australia, and the Philippines have called out China as they expressed “serious concern” about the situation in the East and South China Sea (West Philippine Sea).

In a joint statement following a meeting in Hawaii, Australian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defense Richard Marles, Japanese Minister of Defense Kihara Minoru, the Philippines’ Secretary of National Defense Gilberto Teodoro, and US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin III, expressed strong objection to China’s dangerous use of coast guard and maritime militia vessels in the South China Sea.

They noted China’s repeated obstruction of Philippine vessels’ exercise of high seas freedom of navigation and the disruption of supply lines to Second Thomas Shoal, which constitutes dangerous and destabilizing conduct. 

“(We) emphasized the importance of upholding freedoms of navigation and overflight, and respect for international law, as reflected particularly in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos),” they said.

“(We) called upon the PRC (People’s Republic of China) to abide by the final and legally binding 2016 South China Sea Arbitral Tribunal Award and resolved to work together to support states exercising their rights and freedoms in the South China Sea,” they added.

The defense ministers emphasized their commitment to strengthen cooperation in support of regional security and stability as they reiterated the growing multilateral defense cooperation among the four countries.

They also discussed opportunities to further advance defense cooperation, including through continued maritime cooperation in the South China Sea, enhanced procedures to enable coordination and information-sharing arrangements, as well as strengthening capacity building.

The Philippines has filed several protests against China over the harassment of Filipino vessels in the West Philippine Sea.

The most recent was on April 29, during a mission that aims to distribute fuel and food supplies to Filipino fishermen in BDM the Philippine vessels from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) and the PCG encountered dangerous maneuvers and obstruction from four China Coast Guard (CCG) vessels and six Chinese Maritime Militia vessels.

A CCG vessel utilized its water cannon against a BFAR vessel while two other Chinese ships employed their jet stream water cannons, targeting the PCG vessel from both sides.

PCG spokesperson for the West Philippine Sea Commodore Jay Tarriela said the CCG used potentially deadly high-pressure water cannons, considering that it was able to damage a metal railing. (TPM/SunStar Philippines)

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