A member of the Philippine Coast Guard stands guard during the 116th anniversary of the Philippine Coast Guard in Manila, Philippines, 20 November 2017. EFE-EPA FILE/MARK R. CRISTINO

Desist from ‘provocative, unsafe conduct’ in South China Sea: US to China

Washington, Apr 29 (EFE).- The United States Saturday asked China to “desist from its provocative and unsafe conduct” in the South China Sea after a tense face-off between Beijing and Manila in the hotly contested waterways.

“The United States stands with the Philippines in the face of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) Coast Guard’s continued infringement upon freedom of navigation in the South China Sea,” US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said.

In a statement, Miller said the US stood with “our Philippine allies in upholding the rules-based international maritime order.”

He reaffirmed that an armed attack in the Pacific, which includes the South China Sea, on the Philippines would invoke a US response.

“Imagery and video recently published in the media is a stark reminder of (the Chinese) harassment and intimidation of Philippine vessels as they undertake routine patrols within their exclusive economic zone,” said the spokesperson.

“We call upon Beijing to desist from its provocative and unsafe conduct. The United States continues to track and monitor these interactions closely.”

The statement in a gesture of support for the Philippines comes ahead of a long-due meeting on Monday at the White House between Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Joe Biden.

Tensions have flared up again in the Indo-Pacific amid Beijing’s alleged expansionist ambitions in the South China Sea and growing aggression with Taiwan.

On Friday, China and the Philippines accused each other of acting irresponsibly in an incident in the South China Sea.

The Philippines alleged that Chinese vessels conducted “dangerous maneuvers” around disputed islands in the South China Sea that could have resulted in a collision.

The Philippine Coast Guard said a Chinese ship blocked its way, approaching less than 45 meters from its boat, putting its crew in danger.

China said the action of the Philippine ship was “premeditated and provocative.”

The incident occurred on Apr.23 at Ayungin Atoll, about 105 nautical miles from southwestern Philippines and some 800 miles off the Hainan coast.

The disputed atoll falls in the territorial waters of the Philippines as it lies within the limit of 200 miles established by the UN.

The incident occurred after the US and Philippine armies sank a disused ship as part of their joint military exercises in the South China Sea near an atoll China invaded in 2012.

China opposes the new military agreement between the US and the Philippines, announced on Apr.3, which gives US troops access to four new bases on Philippine soil: one of them about 400 km from Taiwan. EFE