U.S. Support for the Philippines in the South China Sea
The United States stands with our Philippine allies in the face of dangerous actions by the Coast Guard and maritime militia of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to obstruct an August 5 Philippine resupply mission to Second Thomas Shoal in the South China Sea. Firing water cannons and employing unsafe blocking maneuvers, PRC ships interfered with the Philippines’ lawful exercise of high seas freedom of navigation and jeopardized the safety of the Philippine vessels and crew.
Such actions by the PRC are inconsistent with international law and are the latest in repeated threats to the status quo in the South China Sea, directly threatening regional peace and stability. By impeding necessary provisions from reaching the Filipino servicemembers stationed at Second Thomas Shoal, the PRC has also undertaken unwarranted interference in lawful Philippine maritime operations.
As made clear by an international tribunal’s legally binding decision issued in July 2016, the PRC has no lawful claim to the maritime area around Second Thomas Shoal, which is located well within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.
The United States reiterates, pursuant to the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention, the arbitral decision is final and legally binding on the PRC and the Philippines. The United States calls upon the PRC to abide by the arbitral ruling as well as to respect the freedom of navigation – a right to which all states are entitled.
The United States reaffirms an armed attack on Philippine public vessels, aircraft, and armed forces—including those of its Coast Guard in the South China Sea—would invoke U.S. mutual defense commitments under Article IV of the 1951 U.S. Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty.