1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites
A United States ship and helicopter during routine military exercises with the Philippines in the South China Sea
The United States conducts routine military exercises with the Philippines in the South China SeaImage: Ezra Acayan/Getty Images

US vows to defend ally in South China Sea

July 12, 2022

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called on China to stick to its international law obligations and promised any attack on the Philippines would trigger a US military response in the South China Sea.


The United States has warned it will defend the Philippines against any attack on its ships or aircraft in the South China Sea.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken made the statement on the sixth anniversary of a 2016 decision by an international arbitration tribunal that largely ruled in favor of the Philippines over the disputed maritime border. China did not participate in the arbitration.

"We re-affirm that an armed attack on Philippine armed forces ... would invoke US mutual defense commitments," Blinken said in a statement on Tuesday. The mutual defense commitments stem from a 1951 treaty between the allies.

"We call again on the People's Republic of China to abide by its obligations under international law and cease its provocative behavior," he added.

Back in the spotlight

The Philippines' newly appointed foreign secretary, Enrique Manalo, said on Tuesday that the 2016 court findings "are conclusive as they are indisputable."

"We firmly reject attempts to undermine it; nay, even erase it from law, history and our collective memories," Manalo added, without mentioning China by name.

The new administration has indicated a renewed focus on the maritime dispute — and the 2016 court ruling — after a period of warmer ties with China under Rodrigo Duterte, the former president.

Activists in the Philippines also staged a protest outside the Chinese consulate in Makati to mark the anniversary of the arbitration tribunal.

It comes a day after Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi warned leaders at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) secretariat in Jakarta, Indonesia, not to be used as "chess pieces" by major powers.

Activists in the Philippines protesting outside the Chinese consulate in Makati on the sixth anniversary of the South China Sea arbitration tribunal.
Activists protested outside the Chinese consulate in Makati on the anniversary of the South China Sea arbitration tribunalImage: Basilio Sepe/ZUMA Press/picture alliance

What countries claim territory in the South China Sea?

China and the Philippines have been engaged in a decades-long dispute over swaths of the South China Sea, which include several tiny islands and reefs. Each country claims the sea as its historic fishing waters.

Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei also have overlapping claims in the sea.

The waterway is a key global shipping route and sees roughly $5 trillion (€5 trillion) worth of goods transported each year.

The South China Sea is also believed to be rich in oil and gas deposits.  

zc/sms (AP, Reuters)

Skip next section Explore more
Skip next section Related topics
Skip next section DW's Top Story

DW's Top Story

US Patriot missile defense batteries newly installed at the Rzeszow airport located near the Poland-Ukraine border in Rzeszow, Poland

Ukraine calls for air defense help, NATO vows not to waver

Skip next section More stories from DW
Go to homepage