Lloyd Austin III (Photo courtesy of the LA Times)

MANILA — United States Defense Chief Llyod Austin III accordingly contacted his PH counterpart Gilbert Teodoro to reaffirm the unwavering alliance between the United States and the Philippines amid the escalating tension between China and the Philippines in the West Philippine Sea.

He strongly condemned the actions of the China Coast Guard in the South China Sea, including the use of water cannons and risky maneuvers that endangered the safety of Philippine vessels and crew right inside the country’s economic zone on Ayungin Shoal while on a resupply mission.

During their phone conversation, Austin and Teodoro emphasized that the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty between the two nations extends its protective coverage to Philippine public vessels, aircraft, and armed forces, including those of the coast guard operating in the Pacific and South China Sea.

The discussion centered on enhancing the robust US-Philippines alliance through intensified bilateral training, enhanced interoperability, and increased support for the modernization of the Philippine Armed Forces. Specifically, they addressed the recent incident involving China obstructing a Philippine resupply mission to Second Thomas (Ayungin) Shoal on August 5.

Austin, echoing the concerns of several nations, expressed alarm over the hazardous operational activities that disrupt the regional status quo and directly imperil peace and stability in the area.

In response, the Chinese Embassy in Manila criticized Washington for repeatedly invoking the US-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty, accusing the US of sensationalizing tensions in the South China Sea. China expressed a desire for Manila to engage in peaceful dialogue to find a middle ground in resolving its maritime dispute. (AI/MNM)