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China warned as Philippine president proposes countermeasures against Beijing’s aggression

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Mar 28, 2024

The Philippines on Thursday clapped back at China following an aggressive confrontation in the South China Sea over the weekend in an incident that involved the employment of water cannons by China’s coast guard, telling Beijing that “Filipinos do not yield.”

President of the Philippines Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said that after meeting with top Philippine defense and security officials, Manila’s response would be “proportionate, deliberate and reasonable in the face of the open, unabating, and illegal, coercive, aggressive and dangerous attacks by agents of the China coast guard and Chinese maritime militia.”

Marcos did not go into any detail on steps his government would take going forward. 

TAIWAN STANDS AS MAJOR LINE OF DEFENSE AGAINST GLOBAL WAR WITH CHINA, CRITICAL FOR US SECURITY

The Philippine president’s comments came just days after two Chinese coast guard vessels aimed water cannons at Philippine navy crewmen at close range over a dispute in the contested waters near the Second Thomas Shoal.

Several Filipino crew members were reportedly injured, including one who was lifted off the deck and thrown into a wall after being blasted by the water cannon, though the impact apparently prevented him from being plunged into the sea, noted Philippine military officials.

The wooden vessel, said to be bringing supplies to Marines stationed on an outpost on the Second Thomas Shoal, was also damaged. 

Confrontations between China and the Philippines have escalated since Manila began repairing the BRP Sierra Madre naval vessel in October 2023, after it sat rusting for more than a quarter of a century. 

PHILIPPINES REFUSES TO ALLOW CHINA TO REMOVE FILIPINO MILITARY OUTPOST ON DISPUTED SHOAL

The Sierra Madre was grounded by the Philipine navy in 1997 on the partially submerged reef known as the Second Thomas Shoal and has served as an outpost for Manila in the South China Sea. 

The reef, classified as a low-tide elevation, which means it is a naturally formed body of land that sits above the water during low-tide, is in the Spratly Islands – an area highly contested by nations like China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines. 

Given the reef’s location more than 100 nautical miles from the Philippines Economic Exclusion Zone and outside any nation’s territorial seas, it “is not subject to any claim to sovereignty or appropriation by any State under international law,” according to U.S. Indo-Pacific Command. 

But despite the decrepit nature of the vessel that has long since been seaworthy, the Philippine government has reportedly kept marines stationed on the vessel to stake claim to the contested area, according to the U.S. Naval Institute. 

The U.S. condemned China’s aggressive actions and reminded Beijing that it will defend Manila under the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty if Philippine forces, aircraft and ships come under armed attack.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lin Jian responded to Washington’s comments Thursday and said, “The U.S. is not a party to the South China Sea issue and is not in the position of interfering in issues between China and the Philippines.”

“China is determined to uphold our territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests,” he added. “The US-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty will not move us a bit from our will and resolve.”

The U.S. and its regional allies, including Japan and Australia, have repeatedly called on Beijing to respect international laws and not to alter the status quo in the South China Sea. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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