Philippines get America’s support vs. Chinese provocation in Spratlys
On 30 March, two Chinese Coast Guard vessels attempted to block a Philippine Marine vessel from reaching Second Thomas Shoal (Ayungin Shoal) in the West Philippine Sea to resupply its troops, an aggravating move that has drawn criticism from the United States.
America sided with the Philippines in this latest stand-off in the West Philippine Sea, saying China had intentionally shown ‘a provocative and destabilising action’ with the attempted blockade. State Department Deputy Spokeswoman Marie Harf said the Philippines had the right to resupply its troops in the Ayungin Shoal because it had established naval presence in the island since 2002.
The deputy spokeswoman said ‘As a treaty ally of the Republic of the Philippines, the United States urges China to refrain from further provocative behaviour by allowing the Philippines to continue to maintain its presence at Second Thomas Shoal.’
The Philippine supply vessel carried with it provisions for the soldiers stationed in BRP Sierra Madre at the shoal. It was manned by four Navy officers and 20 personnel and journalists in civilian clothes. Last 9 March, another vessel tried to resupply the same naval station in Ayungin Shoal but was turned away by Chinese boats.
The statement adds to the list of warnings the United States has issued to China against taking more drastic actions versus its neighbouring countries. China’s spat with Asean countries around the West Philippine Sea intensified in 2009 when it submitted to the UN its nine-dash map covering the territories it claims in the area. Ayungin Shoal is part of that claim.
Last November, China had also declared an air defense identification zone in East China Sea which overlapped with some of Japan’s islands.