USA | US commitments to the defence of the Philippines in the South China Sea
Defence Redefined
Published on 05/05/2023 at 11:01

The USA presented in clear terms the extent of their commitments under the defence agreement they have signed with the Philippines, issuing new guidelines that specifically refer to the possibility of attacks in the South China Sea.

The new guidelines were agreed on Wednesday, following a warming of US relations with the Philippines and repeated requests by Manila to clarify the terms under which Washington will defend it.

Although the US reassured the Philippines that their defence cooperation is “solid” during a visit this week by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to the White House, Manila believes the defence agreement, signed in 1951, needs to be updated to reflect the existing security environment.

Besides, the Philippines has recently been protesting China’s increasingly aggressive behavior in the South China Sea.

Under the new guidelines, the US would have to rush to the aid of the Philippines either in the event of an attack in the South China Sea or in the event that coast guard crafts were targeted.

Also read: USA – Philippines | The 9th Bilateral Strategic Dialogue was held

The agreement was also updated to include references to modern forms of warfare, such as grey zone tactics, which China is accused of using to assert its sovereignty over islands in the region through non-military means, such as the use of naval or fishing vessels. 

The South China Sea, a sea lane critical to global trade, has become a focus of confrontation between China and the USA.

Although the guidelines do not make explicit reference to China, they are intended to warn it not to target the Philippine coast guard, said Romel Ong, a former Vice Admiral of the Philippine Navy and a professor at the Ateneo School of Government.

For its part, China’s Foreign Ministry announced that it is opposed to using bilateral agreements to intervene in the South China Sea, which should not be reduced to a hunting ground for foreign powers.

The new guidelines were released during Marcos Jr.’s visit to Washington, where he met with US President Joe Biden and Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin, who assured him of their support in the South China Sea and elsewhere in the region.

Also read: USA – Philippines | Largest joint military drills between the two countries kick off – Major Russian military exercise in the Arctic




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