Concerned by reports that China has blocked two vessels of the Philippines in the South China Sea, the US on Wednesday described it as a provocative move that raised tensions.
“We are troubled by reports that China’s Coast Guard blocked efforts by two Filipino vessels to re-supply the Philippines’ outpost at Second Thomas Shoal. This is a provocative move that raises tensions,” State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said.
“Pending resolution of competing claims in the South China Sea, there should be no interference with the efforts of claimants to maintain the status quo,” she said.
The Philippines has maintained a presence at Second Thomas Shoal since 1999, as other claimants have maintained a presence elsewhere in the South China Sea, she added.
“The regular resupply and rotation of personnel positioned in the South China Sea at locations that have existed since before the Declaration of Conduct in the South China Sea was issued by ASEAN and China in 2002 is consistent with maintenance of the status quo. Other claimants regularly resupply and repair their outposts without interference,” Psaki said.
“Freedom of navigation and overflight is a linchpin of security in the Pacific. Safe and unimpeded lawful commerce, freedom of navigation, stability, and respect for international law must be maintained,” said the spokesperson.