FIRST ON FOX: GOP Sens. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Jim Risch, R-Idaho, are expected to send a letter urging the Biden administration to increase support for the Philippines following repeated aggressive incidents from Chinese maritime assets in the South China Sea.
The senators detailed a series of incidents beginning in August involving the People’s Republic Coast Guard and maritime militia.
These actions were aimed at disrupting the Philippines’ efforts to resupply the BRP Sierra Madre, a 542-class tank landing ship stranded on a nearby reef and crewed by Filipino sailors, the letter stated.
China’s Coast Guard and maritime militia resorted to tactics such as deploying water cannons and issuing threats to intercept supply vessels, all in a bid to hinder the replenishment of the stranded vessel.
‘China is on the verge of willfully triggering a humanitarian crisis by blocking the resupply of the BRP Sierra Madre. Its actions will eventually starve Filipino sailors on the vessel. China’s main purpose, of course, is to force the Philippines to abandon Second Thomas Shoal and take de facto control of this territorial feature,’ the senators wrote. ‘Doing so would expand further its unlawful maritime claims – just as Beijing did with Scarborough Shoal over a decade ago. Each new claim of maritime sovereignty gives China another platform to hold allied territory (and U.S. military assets) at greater risk.’
The senators urged President Biden to provide a comprehensive overview of strategies to bolster the Philippine mission concerning the Sierra Madre. The senators contended that a failure to take such steps would potentially embolden further adverse actions.
‘Your administration has repeatedly stated that an attack on Philippine public vessels, aircraft and armed forces – including those of its Coast Guard in the South China Sea – would invoke the U.S. mutual defense commitments… China’s actions are testing the credibility and value of these commitments, and we must respond with strength,’ the senators wrote.
The administration said Monday it would defend the Philippines against potential threats under a decades-old treaty after Chinese ships blocked and collided with two Filipino vessels in the South China Sea.
The U.S. and other allies expressed alarm over the Chinese action off Second Thomas Shoal, and Washington specifically renewed a warning that it is obligated to defend the Philippines under a 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty if Filipino armed forces, ships or aircraft come under an armed attack, including ‘those of its coast guard – anywhere in the South China Sea.’
‘The United States stands with our Philippine allies in the face of the People’s Republic of China coast guard and maritime militia’s dangerous and unlawful actions obstructing an Oct. 22 Philippine resupply mission to Second Thomas Shoal,’ the State Department said in a statement issued by its embassy in Manila.
In May, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III and Philippine Secretary of the Department of National Defense Carlito Galvez established the ‘Bilateral Defense Guidelines’ and reaffirmed that ‘an armed attack in the Pacific, including anywhere in the South China Sea, on either of their public vessels, aircraft, or armed forces – which includes their Coast Guards – would invoke mutual defense commitments under Articles IV and V of the 1951 U.S.-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty,’ the State Department said.
Washington has deployed forces to the disputed sea to patrol the waters and promote freedom of navigation. The move has angered Beijing, which has warned the U.S. to stop meddling.
On Sunday, about five Chinese coast guard ships, eight accompanying vessels and two navy ships formed a blockade to prevent two Philippine coast guard ships and two boats from delivering food and other supplies to Filipino forces stationed at Second Thomas Shoal aboard a marooned navy ship, Philippine Coast Guard Commodore Jay Tarriela said.
Fox News’ Lawrence Richard and The Associated Press contributed to this report.