China’s Assault on Philippines an Imminent Danger

China’s Assault on Philippines an Imminent Danger

Beijing’s increased aggression against America’s long-term ally Philippines could pit the U.S. Navy directly against its larger Chinese counterpart.

On December 10, State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller noted that “Outside Scarborough Reef on December 9 and again near Second Thomas Shoal on December 10, People’s Republic of China (PRC) ships employed water cannons and reckless maneuvers, including forcing a collision, causing damage to Philippine vessels undertaking official supply missions to those locations, and jeopardizing the safety of the Filipino crew.  The PRC ships at Scarborough Reef also used acoustic devices, incapacitating the Filipino crew members, and drove away Philippine fishing vessels.  By impeding the safe operations of Philippine vessels carrying provisions to Filipino service members stationed at Second Thomas Shoal, the PRC interfered in lawful Philippine maritime operations and in Philippine vessels’ exercise of high seas freedom of navigation.  Obstructing supply lines to this longstanding outpost and interfering with lawful Philippines maritime operations undermines regional stability.

These actions reflect not only reckless disregard for the safety and livelihoods of Filipinos, but also for international law.

Beijings action are not new. Xi’s naval and coast guard vessels have both assaulted Manila’s vessels with water cannons and even rammed them. Filipino fisherman have been harassed, and energy and mineral exploration craft have been threatened. Beijing believes, based on the precedent set by Obama when its ships incurred on the Philippine exclusive economic zone and the U.S. didn’t even lodge a diplomatic protest, that Washington will do little of substance in response.

In October, The House Foreign Affairs Committee  stressed that “We unequivocally support the Philippines and condemn the unlawful actions by the Chinese Coast Guard in the South China Sea. The Chinese Coast Guard and maritime militia vessels intentionally hit Philippine Coast Guard ships over the weekend and continue to violate international law, endanger Filipino crew members, and obstruct Philippine vessels’ access in their own exclusive economic zone. This incident is part of a larger pattern of the People’s Liberation Army Navy, the Maritime Militia, and the Chinese Coast Guard’s aggressive and provocative behavior in the South China Sea, where it actively intrudes in other states exclusive economic zones. We condemn Beijing’s maritime intimidation and welcome the Biden administration’s announcement to increase joint patrols with the Philippines and other partners in the South China Sea and its reaffirmation to uphold its commitment under the U.S.-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty.”

XI has not been subtle about his intentions. His government has issued a controversial map which contradicts international law by imagining a vast claim, known as the “Nine Dash Line” over areas rightly held by neighboring nations. As noted by the Philippine’s Dept. of Foreign Affairs  following Beijing’s issuance of a the map, “ The latest attempt to legitimize China’s purported sovereignty and jurisdiction over Philippine features and maritime zones has no basis under international law, particularly the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). The 2016 Arbitral Award invalidated the nine-dashed line. It categorically stated that ‘maritime areas of the South China Sea encompassed by the relevant part of the ‘nine-dash line’ are contrary to the Convention and without lawful effect to the extent that they exceed the geographic and substantive limits of China’s maritime entitlements under the Convention.’”

Gatestone analysis notes that “The Chinese game plan seems crafted to test the resolve of the US commitment to defend Philippine sovereignty. If the US appears to be unwilling to risk a clash with China over its repeated intrusions into the waters of the Philippines’ EEZ, the CCP will exploit any appeasement by the Biden administration to weaken confidence of other American Pacific-based allies, thereby shredding the integrity of any Indo-Pacific Alliance of democracies to contain China.”

Frank Vernuccio serves as editor-in-chief of the New York Analysis of Policy and Government

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