The United States on Thursday reaffirmed its commitment to a strong US-Philippines alliance under the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT), citing its importance to the security of both nations and to a free and open Indo-Pacific region.
US State Secretary Antony Blinken emphasized the US commitment during a telephone conversation with Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr.
“I had a great conversation with @teddylocsin. We’ll continue to build upon the strong US- Philippines Alliance with our shared interests, history, values, and strong people-to-people ties,” Blinken said in a tweet shortly after his telephone call with his Filipino counterpart.
Aside from stressing the importance of the MDT, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said Blinken cited the treaty’s application to armed attacks against the Philippine armed forces, public vessels, or aircraft in the Pacific, which includes the South China Sea.
The US assurance came several days after China approved a law that allows its coast guard to shoot any foreign vessels that would enter into what it claims as its “jurisdictional waters.”
On Wednesday, Locsin announced that the Philippines filed a diplomatic protest against China concerning the legislation giving the Chinese Coast Guard the green light to use force against foreign vessels passing through the already volatile South China Sea.
Blinken also said that the US rejects China’s maritime claims in the South China Sea to the extent they exceed the maritime zones that China is permitted to claim under international law as reflected in the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention.
The Arbitral Tribunal in The Hague, in a decision on July 12, 2016, ruled in favor of the Philippine petition to invalidate China’s expansive nine-dash line claim in the South China Sea.
“Secretary Blinken pledged to stand with Southeast Asian claimants in the face of PRC (People’s Republic of China) pressure. The two secretaries committed to continue building upon a relationship founded on shared strategic interests and history, democratic values, and strong people-to-people ties,” said Price in a media readout posted on the State Department’s official website.