Vice President Kamala Harris promised Monday that an attack on Filipino aircraft and ships would trigger a U.S. military response amid heightened tensions in the South China Sea.
“We stand with you in defense of you of international rules and norms as it relates to the South China Sea. An armed attack on the Philippines Armed Forces, public vessels or aircraft would invoke U.S. mutual defense,” she said while speaking with Filipino President Ferdinand Marcos in Manila.
The commitment of the U.S. to the Asian ally comes from the 1951 U.S.-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty, and the reaffirmed vows come in the context of Chinese-Filipino tensions.
Before Harris met with Marcos, a Philippine military commander accused a Chinese ship of using force to retrieve part of a rocket being towed behind a Philippine ship in the South China Sea. (RELATED: REPORT: Philippines President Duterte Says America Can Use Its Facilities In Case Of War With Russia)
China denied that it used force to grab the rocket, and claimed the Filipino ship gave the object over to China after friendly negotiations, according to Reuters.
China has increasingly flexed its might in attempts to establish sovereignty over the resource-rich sea by creating new islands and building military installations. The U.S. has partnered with its Asian allies in the region in an effort to counter China’s influence in the sea, as well as its threats towards Taiwan.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken made similar remarks affirming America’s military commitment to the Philippines in July, vowing “that an armed attack on Philippine armed forces … would invoke U.S. mutual defense commitments.”
Harris and Marcos then discussed their mutual security and economic partnership and their cooperation on climate action.
The U.S. also allocated $82 million towards strengthening the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) established in 2014 between the two countries.
“This investment, and forthcoming additional allotment, will complete 21 projects, enabling the United States and the Philippines to build lasting security infrastructure to promote long-term modernization, build a credible mutual defense posture, maintain humanitarian assistance and disaster relief capabilities, and enhance the strength of the alliance,” a readout from the White House stated.
The U.S. has identified new EDCA locations for the two countries to pursue joint military training activities, among other mutual goals, the readout said.