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US, PH denounce latest Chinese harassment in SCS

DEFENSE Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr and his American counterpart, Lloyd Austin, denounced China’s recent harassment of Philippine vessels and a US aircraft in the South China Sea (SCS).

Teodoro and Austin, who met on the sidelines of the ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting-Plus in Indonesia on Wednesday, reiterated their call for China to respect international laws.

A joint statement issued by the spokespersons of the US and Philippine defense departments said Teodoro and Austin discussed the importance of “preserving the rights of all nations to fly, sail, and operate safely and responsibly wherever international law allows.”

“In this context, they denounced the recent harassment by vessels from the People’s Republic of China (PRC) towards Philippine Coast Guard and resupply vessels conducting lawful resupply operations around Second Thomas Shoal (Ayungin Shoal), as well as dangerous operational PRC maneuvers against U.S. aircraft and ships lawfully operating in the South China Sea,” the statement said.

On Friday last week, Chinese Coast Guard and maritime militia vessels conducted dangerous maneuvers against three Philippine Coast Guard vessels and two military-chartered wooden boats delivering supplies to Filipino troops at Ayungin Shoal.

One of the Chinese Coast Guard vessels fired water cannon at one of the supply boats, M/L Kalayaan. Despite the harassment, M/L Kalayaan and the other supply boat, Unaizah Mae 1, accomplished their mission.

Last month, a Chinese fighter jet came within 10 feet US B-52 bomber flying over the South China Sea, putting the both aircraft in a danger of collision.

“Taking note of the concerns expressed about the PRC’s recent harassment by a growing number of foreign governments globally, they also emphasized that the 2016 Arbitral Tribunal Ruling is final and binding on the Parties and called on the PRC to abide by its obligations under international law,” the statement said.

The 2016 Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling invalidated China’s excessive claim in the South China Sea. It also recognized the rights of Philippines over its 200 nautical miles exclusive economic zone.

“The Secretaries reaffirmed that the Mutual Defense