By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora

Deputy Secretary of State Kurt Campbell (Photo courtesy of State Department)

MANILA – The State Department has reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) following China’s latest actions in the West Philippine Sea that involved a Chinese Coast Guard “ramming and towing” a Filipino vessel.

During a call about the June 17 incident, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Maria Theresa Lazaro and Deputy Secretary of State Kurt Campbell ”shared concerns” over China’s activities and agreed that its “dangerous actions threatened regional peace and stability”.

Campbell said Article IV of the 1951 United States-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty “extends to armed attacks on Philippine armed forces, public vessels, or aircraft – including those of its Coast Guard – anywhere in the South China Sea”.

In a separate statement, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller described China’s way of disrupting Manila’s resupply mission as “escalatory and irresponsible”.

“PRC (People’s Republic of China) vessels’ dangerous and deliberate use of water cannons, ramming, blocking maneuvers, and towing damaged Philippine vessels, endangered the lives of Philippine service members, is reckless, and threatens regional peace and stability,” he said.

“This escalatory incident is the latest in a series of PRC provocations to impede critically needed supplies from reaching service members stationed at the BRP Sierra Madre,” he said.

He said Beijing’s actions shows its “consistent disregard for the safety” of Filipinos and for international law in the South China Sea.

READ: Defense chief: AFP to resist reckless, illegal China behavior in WPS

In a post on X, the New Zealand Embassy in Manila also called these actions “escalatory and dangerous”.

“Escalatory and dangerous actions by Chinese vessels at Second Thomas Shoal damaging Philippine vessels and obstructing assistance to injured personnel are of great concern,” it said.

“These threaten lives and safety. New Zealand calls for peaceful resolution of disputes in full accordance with UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea),” it said.

The embassies of South Korea, Germany, and Australia also shared the “grave” and “serious concern” over the incident.

“Australia shares the Philippines’ deep concern at dangerous & illegal actions by China’s vessels near Second Thomas Shoal, causing injury, damaging Philippines vessels, and endangering lives & regional stability. States must act consistently with international law, including UNCLOS,” Australian Ambassador HK Yu said over X.

The South Korean Embassy, meanwhile, reiterated that South China serves as a “critical sea lane of communications” for countries using it.

“The Embassy of the Republic of Korea in the Philippines expresses grave concern about the recent dangerous actions in the South China Sea that caused serious damages to the Philippine vessels and especially bodily injuries to a crew member,” it said.

“We reiterate the importance of upholding peace, stability, safety and rules-based maritime order in the South China Sea, a critical sea lane of communications for all countries that are using it,” it said.

The United Kingdom and Canada also joined several foreign missions that condemned China’s actions and called for the peaceful resolution of disputes at sea. (PNA)