With China continuing to face retaliation from several nations for its robust expansion over territories in the South China Sea, its arch-nemesis – the United States could offer unconditional military support to the Philippines in case of any belligerence from the dragon.
The Philippines, which has a seventy-year-old Mutual Defence Treaty, has warned China that they will use their ‘Trump Card, and use American force in case of Chinese hostilities in the South China Sea.
Philippines Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr, while referring to Beijing’s bullish acts of pressuring a host of nations in covering land not untitled to them, said that he wouldn’t think twice about calling for back up from the US Navy if its vessels were attacked by China in the disputed waters.
“If something happens that is beyond incursion but is, in fact, an attack on say a Filipino naval vessel…..means then I call up Washington DC,” said Locsin.
He also stated that Manila will continue to air patrols over the region, despite Beijing’s calls for the action being “an illegal provocation”. “They can call it an illegal provocation, you cannot change their minds.” said Loscin.
In August 1951, a mutual defence treaty was signed between representatives of the Philippines and the United States. As per this mutual defence treaty, Manila and Washington are committed to aid each other in case of an attack on each other.
The United States has said it is not taking sides in the dispute over waters claimed by China, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Vietnam.
The Philippines has also been urged to raise the 2016 Hague ruling against China at the United Nations under which the country won its historical case against China after an international tribunal rejected Beijing’s claim over the South China Sea, portions of which belong to the Philippines as the West Philippine Sea.
The call for the ruling has been made by the country’s ‘Powerful Trio’ consisting of the nation’s former foreign secretary Albert del Rosario, retired Supreme Court senior associate justice, Antonio Carpio, and former ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, who are known to be champions for asserting the nation’s rights over the West Philippine Sea.
The trio was seen speaking on Sunday (August 30), two weeks prior to the 75th regular session of UN General Assembly (UNGA), scheduled on September 15. Del Rosario, Carpio, and Morales said,
“Bringing the arbitral ruling to the UNGA is not relitigating the case. It is enforcing what we already won. As international law does not have a world policeman, it is up to us to enforce the arbitral ruling by rallying other countries to our lawful position,”
If we do not help ourselves, how can we expect other countries to help us? We, Filipinos, must not waste this chance to be heard. Having lost so many opportunities by the shelving of the arbitral ruling since 2016, it is now in our highest national interest to bring this ruling on the South China Sea to the UNGA.”
In 2019, Del Rosario and Morales had filed a communication with the International Criminal Court, naming Chinese President Xi Jinping as respondent for alleged crimes against humanity in the West Philippine Sea. The team accentuated the need for the assertion of the ruling after conducting surveys which observed the nation’s population favouring the cause.
“Raising the arbitral ruling at the UNGA is the will of the Filipino people. Surveys show that 8 out of 10 Filipinos believe that the South China Sea issues should be brought to the UNGA. Our government must listen to its people. We, therefore, appeal to our country’s leadership to kindly be there for us.” they said.
China claims most of the South China Sea and often invokes its so-called ‘nine-dash line’ to justify its alleged historic rights to the key waterway which is also contested by the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan and Brunei.
In 2012, following a tense stand-off, China seized Scarborough Shoal Island from the Philippines, one of the richest fishing grounds in the region, located 240 kilometres west of Luzon, Philippines’ main island and 650 kilometres from the nearest major Chinese landmass, the island province of Hainan.
Recently, Philippines Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana accused Beijing of illegally occupying Filipino maritime territory, saying – “China’s nine-dash line used to claim most of the South China Sea is a fabrication.”
Lorenzana later lodged a diplomatic protest over the “illegal confiscation by China’s coastguard of fishing equipment near the shoal.”
Beijing condemns patrols in the South China Sea and declared that the region is beyond reproach and air patrols by the Philippines. Washington has been opposing China’s territorial claims on the South China Sea, by regularly sending warships as it demonstrates freedom of navigation in the region.
Penned By Mansij Asthana