THE United States and Australia opposed “destabilizing actions” in the South China Sea (SCS), including the disruption of routine Philippines maritime operations around Second Thomas (Ayungin) Shoal in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).
US President Joe Biden and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila) mentioned the Philippines in a joint statement which touched on various topics, including their concern on peace and stability in the region.
Biden and Albanese inaugurated a new era of US-Australia strategic cooperation during the Prime Minister’s official visit in Washington, D.C., the White House said in a statement shared by the US Embassy in the Philippines.
“We are concerned about China’s excessive maritime claims that are inconsistent with international law, as well as unilateral actions that may raise tensions and increase the risk of miscalculation in the region,” the two leaders said. They emphasized the “importance of all States being able to exercise rights and freedoms in a manner consistent with international law as reflected in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos), including freedom of navigation and overflight.”
“We strongly oppose destabilizing actions in the South China Sea, such as unsafe encounters at sea and in the air, the militarization of disputed features, the dangerous use of coast guard vessels and maritime militia, including to interfere with routine Philippines maritime operations around Second Thomas Shoal, and efforts to disrupt other countries’ offshore resource exploitation,” they said.
Biden and Albanese also said they “recognize that the 2016 South China Sea Arbitral Award is final and legally binding on the parties in that proceeding.”
“We resolve to work with partners to support regional maritime security and uphold international law,” they added.
“We emphasize the importance for all countries of promoting open channels of communication and practical measures to reduce the risk of misunderstanding and miscalculation and to prevent conflict in the Indo-Pacific,” he stressed.
Days after collisions between Chinese and Philippine vessels in the South China Sea, Biden said that the US defense commitment to the Philippines is “ironclad.”
“Any attack on Filipino aircraft, vessels or armed forces will invoke our mutual defense treaty with the Philippines,” he told reporters.
“I want to be very clear,” he said. “The United States defense commitment to the Philippines is ironclad.” The Chinese Embassy in Manila on Thursday said the US “incited troubles” and magnified differences in the South China Sea (SCS) in its pursuit of selfish geopolitical interests.
“This is quite clear to countries in the region,” the embassy said in a statement. Rather than being a “self-claimed responsible power, the US actually created many instabilities across the world, leaving behind one mess after another,” it added. “Now it attempts to destabilize the Asia-Pacific region. Such scheme is doomed to fail,” the embassy said.
It claimed that the escalation of tension in the SCS has been “inflated by the US actions,” as Washington “repeatedly sought to threaten China by citing the  US-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty.” “Since the beginning of this year, the US has been blatantly emboldening the Philippines’ acts of infringing upon China’s sovereignty and inciting and supporting the Philippines’ attempts to repair and reinforce its warship that was deliberately ‘grounded’ on Ren’ai Jiao,” it said referring to BRP Sierra Madre. The Chinese Embassy also chided the US Embassy in Manila for issuing “remarks regarding Ren’ai Jiao” which the Philippines call the Ayungin Shoal.