The Philippines warns that it may seek U.S. support in a feud with China

Manila, Philippines (AP) —The Philippines can seek the help of the United States, which has a mutual defense treaty, to protect its interests in the South China Sea, Manila’s Pentagon covers in an intensifying feud With China over the disputed coral reefs said Thursday on a hidden threat.

The Philippine government has demanded that militias operate dozens of Chinese vessels to leave Manila’s alleged whitson reef in the most fiercely contested Spratly Islands. China owns coral reefs and claims that Chinese ships protect it from rough seas.

The Philippine Army deployed Coast Guard and Navy patrols near the area, flew surveillance aircraft, and released photos of Chinese ships. Many of them lined up while they were moored on a coral reef that Manila called Julian Felipe. The standoffs triggered a fierce exchange between Secretary of Defense Delphin Lorenzana and the Chinese embassy in Manila.

In a statement, Defense Ministry spokesman Arsenio Andron said, “As the situation in the West Philippine Sea progresses, everything to manage the situation, including leveraging partnerships with other countries such as the United States. Keeps the options open. ” Filipino name of the South China Sea.

“We are in continuous discussion with the United States on the issue of mutual defense,” Andron said. “Both parties are not independent on these issues, including their own right of self-defense, as they have promised to assume their obligations under the Mutual Defense Treaty.”

The United States said it supported the Philippines in the conflict and accused China of “using maritime militias to intimidate, provoke and intimidate other nations.”

Andron welcomed a statement by US State Department spokesman Ned Price at a recent press conference, reiterating that armed attacks on Philippine troops, public vessels and aircraft in the Pacific, including the South China Sea, “cause our obligations.” did. The 1951 Treaty of the Allies. If either is attacked by another country in the region, both countries provide support for each other.

However, invoking the treaty can be a complex step and can be stalled by opponents from either side, including US lawmakers.

The Chinese embassy states that it is “perfectly normal” for Chinese fishing vessels to fish and evacuate in Witsan called Niuejao. “No one has the right to make unjustified statements about such activities,” he said.

During the standoffs, Andron said the Philippines would protect and defend national interests “while maintaining regional security and stability through a peaceful and rules-based approach.”

The Philippines has filed a diplomatic protest, and the coral reef, about 175 nautical miles (324 km) west of Palawan, is within an internationally recognized offshore zone with exclusive rights to exploit fisheries, oil and gas. Said. And other resources.

Manila’s Foreign Ministry said, “Because of the daily delays, the Republic of the Philippines will file diplomatic protests.”

The islands, islets and atolls of the Spratly Islands are also claimed in whole or in part by China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei. China has recently turned seven disputed coral reefs into missile-protected island bases, increasing tensions.