The United States joined the Philippines in urging Beijing to stay out of the West Philippine Sea and abide by international maritime law, less than a week after the defense department blew the whistle on Chinese warships loitering near the Spratly Islands.
“The United States supports the Philippines’ continued calls on the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to respect the international law of the sea in the South China Sea, as reflected in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and its legal obligations under the 2016 arbitral ruling,” the US Department of State said in a statement released on December 19.
On Wednesday, December 14, the officer-in-charge of the Department of National Defense (DND), Jose Faustino Jr., expressed “great concern” over China’s continued presence near features in the West Philippine Sea, labeling reports of Chinese vessels near Iriqouis Reef and Sabina Shoa asl as “unacceptable.”
In the ongoing territorial conflict, Faustino restated Malacanang’s position that the Philippines “would not cede a single square inch of Philippine land.”
In a statement released by the office of US state department spokesperson Ned Price, the US noted the escalating swarms of PRC vessels near Iroquois Reef and Sabina Shoal in the Spratly Islands, which interfere with the livelihoods of Filipino fishers and “reflect continuing disregard for other South China Sea claimants and states lawfully operating in the region.”
“Furthermore, we share the Philippines’ concerns on the dangerous encounter initiated by the PRC Coast Guard with Philippine naval troops in the South China Sea,” the statement reads in part.
The statement continued, “The United States stands with our friend, the Philippines, in defending the rules-based international order and freedom of navigation in the South China Sea as required by international law.”