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Red China Brushes Off U.S. Security Guarantees For The Philippines

Since mid-February the U.S. has maintained almost half of its aircraft carriers deployed in the Pacific Theater of Operations.

The South China Morning Post reported on February 14 that five of America’s 11 aircraft carriers would all likely soon be deployed there at the same time. Two of the carriers, the USS Carl Vinson and USS Theodore Roosevelt have been participating in a military exercise with Japan in the Philippine Sea, the USS Ronald Reagan is in port at Yokosuka, the USS Abraham Lincoln departed San Diego earlier this month, and the USS George Washington is expected to relieve the Reagan in a few weeks.


This is an unusual concentration of America’s naval power in one region at once, and it is being widely interpreted as a show of force meant for China and North Korea observed Daniel Larison in an article for Responsible Statecraft.


However, despite the Biden “show of force” the former U.S. territory of the Philippines has come under increasing “grey zone” attack from Red China as the Communist giant continues to encroach on the territorial waters of the island nation.

A few weeks ago, Communist China’s aggressive actions prompted the Biden administration to issue a statement reaffirming American security guarantees of the Philippines:


The United States stands with our ally the Philippines following the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) provocative actions against lawful Philippine maritime operations in the South China Sea on March 5.  PRC ships employed dangerous maneuvers and water cannons against Philippine vessels carrying provisions to Filipino service members stationed at the BRP Sierra Madre, causing multiple collisions, damaging at least one Philippine vessel, injuring Filipino service members, and jeopardizing the safety of the Filipino crew.  We condemn the PRC’s repeated obstruction of Philippine vessels’ exercise of high seas freedom of navigation and its disruption of supply lines to this longstanding outpost.


Citing Article IV of the 1951 U.S.-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty and an international tribunal’s legally binding decision issued in July 2016, finding the Peoples Republic of China has no lawful maritime claims to the waters around Second Thomas Shoal, and that the Second Thomas Shoal is a low tide feature clearly within the Philippines exclusive economic zone the United States demanded the Red Chinese conduct itself according to the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention and recognize that the 2016 arbitral decision is final and legally binding on the PRC and the Philippines.

The shoal, the site of frequent hostilities since last year, has been occupied by a small Philippine naval contingent but surrounded by the Chinese coast guard and other vessels in a decades-long territorial standoff.

 The Red Chinese coast guard brushed off Joe Biden’s “show of force” and used water cannons that injured several Philippine navy crewmen and heavily damaged their wooden supply boat near the Second Thomas Shoal. The cannon blast was so strong it threw a crewman off the floor but he hit a wall instead of plunging into the sea, Philippine military officials said according to reporting by Jim Gomez for The Diplomat.

Mr. Gomez reported that far from being cowed, the Communist Chinese warned Washington to stay away from what it says is a purely Asian dispute, but the United States has said it would press on with navy patrols as it has done for more than 70 years in accordance with international law to help safeguard freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea.

China’s latest efforts to prevent the Philippines from resupplying its detachment of marines stationed at Second Thomas Shoal represents a significant escalation of its aggressive and coercive actions. Available evidence suggests that China’s objective is to dislodge the Philippine marines, and there appears to be a greater sense of urgency in recent months, explained Andrew Scobell in a post to the US Institute for Peace website.


Beijing is practiced at coordinated maneuvers by Chinese coast guard ships, maritime militia vessels (which appear as fishing boats), combined with People’s Liberation Army Navy ships. China’s “gray hulls” usually remain in the background with the “white hulls” and fishing boats taking the lead in harassing Philippine ships. This allows Beijing to apply armed force while keeping its actions just below the threshold of war.


Beijing has repeatedly sought to disrupt Manila’s resupply efforts in the past. However, recent actions represent a qualitative shift in China’s behavior, which can be characterized as gray zone operations on steroids.

Communist China’s efforts to expand its control of the South China Sea are a distinct threat to both U.S. and global interests observed Dean Cheng in the same USIP post cited above. China’s efforts to dominate what has sometimes been termed the carotid artery of global trade threatens the sea lanes of communications of Taiwan, South Korea and Japan, all key U.S. allies and partners. A successful Chinese effort would also signal to other neighbors that, even with its economic and other troubles, China is ascendant, and able to gain through gray zone tactics and intimidation what it does not have legal right to.

Clearly, the Red Chinese are not deterred by Joe Biden’s “show of force” and verbal bluster. The question is, is Joe Biden up to doing what is necessary to actually protect Philippine territorial integrity and our own navigation rights? Right now, the signs don’t look good.

  • South China sea

  • U.S. aircraft carriers

  • Military exercises with Japan

  • Red China

  • Chinese Communist party

  • Show of Force

  • Gray Zone Attacks

  • Philippines guarantees

  • Philippines vessels

  • Second Thomas Shoal

  • Water Cannons

  • Philippine supply boats

  • sea lanes

  • trade

  • Joe Biden foreign policy

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