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US warns Chinese Coast Guard to stop harassing Philippine vessels in the South China Sea

This photo taken on 21 April 2023 shows a Philippine flag fluttering next to navy ships anchored at the Philippine-occupied Thitu island in the disputed South China Sea (AFP via Getty Images)
This photo taken on 21 April 2023 shows a Philippine flag fluttering next to navy ships anchored at the Philippine-occupied Thitu island in the disputed South China Sea (AFP via Getty Images)

The US has warned the Chinese Coast Guard to stop harassing Philippine vessels in the South China Sea, it was reported.

On Saturday, the US state department said in a statement: “We call upon Beijing to desist from its provocative and unsafe conduct.”

Last week, the Philippines accused China’s coast guard of “aggressive tactics” and “dangerous manoeuvres” in the South China Sea, amid simmering geopolitical tensions between the two nations.

Foreign ministry spokesperson Teresita Daza said at the time that China had interfered with a routine patrol and should “refrain from actions that may cause an untoward incident”.

China’s foreign ministry had said that the Philippine vessels had intruded into Chinese waters and made deliberate provocative moves.

However, the US state department said Washington “stands with our Philippine allies in upholding the rules-based international maritime order”.

Associated Press reported last week that China has angered the Philippines by repeatedly harassing its navy and coast guard patrols and chasing away fishermen in the waters close to Philippine shores but which Beijing claims as its own.

The Philippines has, meanwhile, filed more than 200 diplomatic protests against China since last year, including at least 77 since president Ferdinand Marcos Jr took office in June.

Earlier this month, China warned that a deepening security alliance between the United States and the Philippines should not harm its security and territorial interests and interfere in long-simmering territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

When asked to comment on the combat exercises between American and Filipino forces that started earlier in April in the Philippines, the Chinese Embassy in Manila issued a statement by Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin, who said that such drills “should not target any third party and should be conducive to regional peace and stability”.

In Washington, the US and Philippine defence and foreign secretaries met earlier in April to discuss the development of nine Philippine military camps, where American forces have been allowed to stay indefinitely under the 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement.

“These sites will support combined training exercises and interoperability between our forces to ensure that we’re even better prepared for future crises,” US defence secretary Lyoyd Austin said. He added the US was allocating more than $100m to build infrastructure at the sites, where Americans would be stationed.