US State Department spokesman Ned Price said Washington supports the Philippines amid an escalation that directly threatens regional peace and stability. “Beijing must not interfere with legitimate Filipino activities in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone,” Price said in a statement.
Read: US Congressional Agency Report: Chinese Military Will Soon Attack Taiwan
“The United States supports our Philippine allies in upholding a rules-based international maritime order and reaffirms that an armed attack on Philippine common vessels in the South China Sea will trigger a joint US defense commitment,” Price said.
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin reaffirmed America’s defense commitment to Manila and pledged to “stand by our Filipino allies” in Friday’s call with his Philippine counterpart, Delfin Lorenzana.
“They agreed on the importance of peace and stability in the South China Sea and pledged to remain in close contact in the coming days,” the Pentagon said in a statement.
Read: Virologist: First COVID-19 Case Patient Is Woman in Wuhan Market
On Thursday, the Philippines condemned “in the strongest terms” the actions of three Chinese coastguard vessels that it said blocked and used water cannon on a supply ship bound for a Philippine-occupied atoll in the South China Sea.
The incident comes days after US President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping held a virtual 3-1/2 hour meeting this week aimed at ensuring that the increasingly fierce and fierce rivalry between the superpowers does not lead to conflict.