Fact checks on militaries

FACT CHECK: US has engaged with other countries besides PH in South China Sea dispute


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FACT CHECK: US has engaged with other countries besides PH in South China Sea dispute
The US has been working to expand its network of allies to counter growing Chinese influence in the Indo-Pacific

Claim: Despite other countries also claiming parts of the South China Sea, the US is engaging only with the Philippines and supporting its pushback against China because the Western superpower has a “hidden agenda” against China.

Rating: FALSE

Why we fact-checked this: The Facebook video was uploaded on April 13 by a page with 57,000 followers. As of writing, it has garnered 232 reactions, 2,400 views, 52 comments, and 27 shares.

The video questioned why the US is engaging only with the Philippines when other countries such as Vietnam also claim parts of the South China Sea. It said this was proof that the Western country is doing so due to its supposed hidden agenda against China.

The video was posted following the trilateral summit between the US, Philippines, and Japan to discuss “serious concerns” about China’s “dangerous and aggressive behavior” in the South China Sea.

The bottom line: The US has moved to boost diplomatic ties with other countries concerned about China’s aggressive moves in the South China Sea amid Beijing’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific. This is part of the US’ Indo-Pacific Strategy, which states that Washington will “work closely with like-minded partners to ensure that the region remains open and accessible,” in particular building support for “rules-based approaches to the maritime domain, including in the South China Sea and the East China Sea.” 

In September 2023, US President Joe Biden visited Vietnam to deepen cooperation between the two countries. Biden and Vietnam’s Communist Party chief Nguyen Phu Trong warned against the “threat or use of force” in the disputed South China Sea.

The US also announced that it was working with allies to “deter China from bellicose activities toward Taiwan,” which also has claims in the contested waterway. 

Other claimants, like Brunei and Malaysia, have sought to maintain close relationships with both superpower countries to protect their interests.


Vietnam-China relations: Although Vietnam and China enjoy diplomatic trading relations, tension remains between the two countries over competing maritime claims, particularly sovereignty claims over the Paracel Islands.

The two countries even engaged in a naval battle in 1974 over the Paracel Islands. Vietnam continues to reassert its claim and protest China’s occupation of the islands.

2016 arbitral ruling: The Philippines challenged China’s sweeping claims over the South China Sea before an international arbitral tribunal, resulting in a historic victory in 2016. Beijing, however, has refused to acknowledge the ruling. 

The US has declared its support for the ruling and the Philippines’ assertion of its sovereign rights, vowing to invoke the Mutual Defense Treaty in response to attacks on the Philippines in the South China Sea.

Rappler has published several fact-checks on supposed US military actions:

– Kyle Marcelino/Rappler.com

Kyle Marcelino is a graduate of Rappler’s fact-checking mentorship program. This fact check was reviewed by a member of Rappler’s research team and a senior editor. Learn more about Rappler’s fact-checking mentorship program here.

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