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State Department called on China for its “escalation” in the South China Sea, saying it “directly threatens regional peace and stability” while maintaining the United States’ commitment to support the Philippines .
The People’s Republic of China Coast Guard blocked and used water cannons against Filipino supply ships en route to Second Thomas Shoal in the South China Sea this week, which the State Department says is undermining “security in the region”.
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“The United States stands alongside our ally, the Philippines, in the face of this escalation which directly threatens regional peace and stability, aggravates regional tensions, undermines the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea as guaranteed by international law and undermines rules based on international order, ”State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement on Friday.
Price referred to a 2016 ruling that delivered “a unanimous and lasting decision strongly rejecting the PRC’s claims on Second Thomas Shoal and on the waters determined to be part of the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines.”
“The PRC and the Philippines, in accordance with their treaty obligations under the Convention on the Law of the Sea, are legally bound to comply with this ruling,” Price said, adding that China “should not interfere with the Filipino activities lawful in the exclusive economic sector of the Philippines. zone. “
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Price doubled down, saying that “the United States stands with our Filipino allies to uphold the rules-based international maritime order,” and reaffirmed that “an armed attack on Filipino public ships in the sea of Southern China would invoke the United States’ mutual defense commitments under Article IV of the 1951 U.S. Philippine Mutual Defense Treaty.
“The United States strongly believes that the actions of the PRC asserting its extensive and illegal maritime claims in the South China Sea undermine peace and security in the region,” Price said.
The Biden administration’s strong statement comes just days after President Biden held a virtual meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping – in what was their third engagement since Biden took office.
It also comes after the latest Fox News poll shows a majority of registered voters believe Biden is not tough enough on China. 55% of voters disapprove of Biden’s handling of China, and overall, 7 in 10 are extremely, or very concerned, about both China’s military and economic might. 6 in 10 think Biden hasn’t been tough enough on the country.
Meanwhile, officials in the Biden administration have warned that China is the “only competitor” potentially capable of mounting a “challenge” to the international system.
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The CIA last month announced the formation of the China Mission Center to counter China. CIA Director William Burns said the China Mission Center will tackle the challenges posed by the People’s Republic of China and stressed that “the threat comes from the Chinese government, not its people.”
Burns said the new mission center will provide “an Agency-wide response” and “unify the exceptional work the CIA is already doing against the main rival.”