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US reaffirms support for PH amid laser issue

February 23, 2023 Cristina Lee-Pisco 209 views

UNITED States Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III spoke with National Defense Officer in Charge Carlito Galvez yesterday to reaffirm the department’s commitment to support the Philippines’ defense capabilities and capacity to resist coercion following a recent incident where the People’s Republic of China (PRC) Coast Guard directed a military-grade laser at the crew of a Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) vessel lawfully operating around Second Thomas Shoal (Ayungin Shoal).

Austin initiated the call to discuss developments in the disputed South China Sea (SCS).

He underscored the United States’ commitment to supporting the lawful rights and operations of the Philippines in the South China Sea, including around the Second Thomas Shoal, which the 2016 Arbitral Tribunal unequivocally ruled is a part of the Philippine exclusive economic zone.

He reiterated that an armed attack on Philippine armed forces, aircraft, and public vessels, including those of its Coast Guard, anywhere in the South China Sea, would invoke U.S. mutual defense commitments under Article IV of the 1951 U.S.-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty.

The two leaders discussed proposals to deepen operational cooperation and enhance the United States and the Philippines’ shared security, including the recent decision to resume combined maritime activities in the South China Sea.

Austin reaffirmed the Department’s commitment to bolstering the Philippines’ defense capabilities and capacity to resist coercion as the Allies developed a Security Sector Assistance Roadmap.

Both officials also discussed opportunities to expand security cooperation with like-minded nations, such as Japan, that seek to uphold the rules-based international order and our shared vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific.

They concluded the call by committing to advance an ambitious set of initiatives leading up to the 2+2 Ministerial in Washington, D.C. this spring as the United States and the Philippines rapidly modernize alliance cooperation.

The Philippine Coast Guard has accused a Chinese coast guard ship of directing a “military-grade” laser at one of its vessels on Feb. 6, putting the Filipino crew in danger.

The PCG vessel was supporting a rotation and resupply mission of the Philippine Navy in Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal in the West Philippine Sea when the incident happened.