Philippines won’t invoke mutual defense treaty with US after Chinese confrontation at disputed shoal

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In this photo provided by Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine military chief General Romeo Brawner Jr pins a medal on a Navy personnel in Palawan province, Philippines on June 19. (AP)

MANILA, Philippines, June 22, (AP): The Philippines said Friday it has no plan to invoke its mutual defense treaty with the United States after the Chinese coast guard reportedly rammed, boarded and used machetes and axes to damage two Philippine navy boats in a chaotic faceoff that injured Filipino navy personnel at a disputed shoal in the South China Sea.
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr’s key advisers made the remarks in a televised news conference, squelching speculation that Manila might consider invoking the 1951 treaty to secure US military help after Monday’s confrontation at Second Thomas Shoal, where the Chinese coast guard also seized Philippine navy rifles. The Philippine military chief condemned the incident, likening it to an act of piracy, and demanded that China return the rifles and pay for the damage.
The territorial disputes, which involve China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan, have long been seen as an Asian flashpoint that could pit the US against China if the high seas confrontations escalate into an armed conflict. Washington has repeatedly warned that it’s obligated to help defend the Philippines, its oldest treaty ally in Asia, if Filipino forces, ships and aircraft come under an armed attack, including in the South China Sea.
“That has not been considered in our discussions,” presidential assistant on maritime concerns Andres Centino said when asked if the Philippines was considering activating its treaty with the U.S.
Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin said the government did not consider the Chinese coast guard confrontation an armed attack as stated in the mutual defense treaty with the U.S.
“This was probably a misunderstanding or an accident. We’re not yet ready to classify this as an armed attack,” Bersamin said. “We saw bolo, axe, nothing beyond that.”
In what critics may see as a concession to China, Bersamin said Marcos approved a recommendation for the government to publicize the schedule when navy personnel are deployed to transport food, water and other supplies to the Philippines’ territorial outpost in the shoal.

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