The US has backed the Philippines’ removal of a South China Sea (SCS) barrier supposedly installed by Beijing, with a Pentagon official describing the move as a “bold step” to defend maritime claims.
The US is also committed to defend the Southeast Asian nation in case of an armed attack on its vessels in the South China Sea in accordance with a decades-old treaty, according to Deputy Assistant Secretary for Defense Lindsey Ford.
“We have said repeatedly and will continue to say that we stand by those commitments absolutely,” she said at a webcast of a US House foreign affairs subcommittee hearing Thursday.
Tensions between China and the Philippines rose this week after Manila’s coast guard said it took out what it said was a China-installed floating barrier blocking Scarborough Shoal in contested waters that prevented access for Filipino fishing vessels. Beijing has, however, said it removed the structure by itself, as it maintained sovereignty in the area.
President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. conferred with security officials in his recent order to remove the barrier, Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin separately said in a local radio interview Thursday.
Asked during the hearing if the US Coast Guard is inclined to join their Philippine counterparts to deter Beijing’s “bad faith actions” in the SCS, Vice Admiral Andrew Tiongson said his crew “will continue to build” Manila’s capacity to defend its sovereign rights.
“We will continue to share with them our tactics, techniques and procedures to make sure that they are ready for those types of events,” he said.
Image credits: Philippine Coast Guard via AP