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Biden: US defense commitment to Philippines is ironclad

WASHINGTON – The US defense commitment to the Philippines is “ironclad,” President Joe Biden said on Wednesday after a Chinese coast guard ship hit a Philippine vessel in the Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal to prevent it from delivering provisions to troops stationed on the beached BRP Sierra Madre last weekend.

“Any attack on Filipino aircraft, vessels or armed forces will invoke our mutual defense treaty with the Philippines,” Biden told reporters.

“I want to be very clear,” he said of the incident that occurred Oct. 22. “The United States defense commitment to the Philippines is ironclad.”

Reacting to Biden’s statement, the Chinese foreign ministry said at a regular press briefing yesterday in Beijing that the US does not have the right to get involved in problems between China and the Philippines.

“The US is not party to the South China Sea issue, it has no right to get involved in a problem between China and the Philippines,” said ministry spokesperson Mao Ning.

“The US promise of defending the Philippines must not hurt China’s sovereignty and maritime interests in the South China Sea, and it also must not enable and encourage the illegal claims of the Philippines,” Mao said.

China and the Philippines recently have had several high-profile skirmishes in the South China Sea, most notably in the waters around the Ayungin Shoal, which is part of the Spratly Islands.

Manila has condemned “in the strongest degree” China’s actions in Ayungin Shoal where its ships made “dangerous blocking maneuvers” that led to one of them hitting a smaller Philippine vessel.

At a joint press briefing, Biden and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese voiced their strong condemnation of China’s destabilizing actions, particularly its “dangerous use of coast guard vessels and maritime militia” in asserting its maritime claims.

The US and Australia share the commitment to upholding international law, including freedom of navigation.

In a joint leaders’ statement, Biden and Albanese have expressed concern over China’s “excessive maritime claims that are inconsistent with international law.” They also said China’s “unilateral actions” may raise tensions and as well as the “risk of