Austin: Commitment ‘ironclad’ after China’s ‘dangerous actions’ in Ayungin

Bea Cupin

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Austin: Commitment ‘ironclad’ after China’s ‘dangerous actions’ in Ayungin

US DEFENSE CHIEF. US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin speaks at the Shangri-la Dialogue in Singapore on June 1, 2024.


US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III 'underscores continued US support for the Philippines in defending its sovereign rights'

MANILA, Philippines – The defense chiefs of the Philippines and the United States (US) spoke by phone on Wednesday, June 26, over a week after China disrupted a Philippine resupply mission to a military outpost in the West Philippine Sea. 

In a readout, the US Department of Defense said Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III “reaffirmed the ironclad US commitment to the Philippines following dangerous actions on June 17,” during a phone call with Philippine Secretary of National Defense Gilberto Teodoro Jr. 

On June 17, two Philippine Navy rigid hull inflatable boats (RHIBs) were harassed by the China Coast Guard (CCG) just as they were moored beside the BRP Sierra Madre, a rusting warship where a handful of soldiers are stationed for months at a time. 

Video clips released by the Philippine military show CCG personnel brandishing bladed weapons as they tried to tow the RHIBs away from the ship. The Chinese eventually did, then proceeded to board at least one RHIB. China also took disassembled rifles and destroyed navigation and communication equipment owned by the Philippine Navy. 

Teodoro has called it a “deliberate act of the Chinese officialdom to prevent us from completing our mission.”

The incident has sparked indignation, particularly from countries with whom the Philippines has close security and diplomatic ties. The US State Department was among the first foreign ministries to issue statements of support for Manila just days after the incident. 

The June 26 readout did not mention the Mutual Defense Treaty explicitly but said Austin “underscored continued U.S. support for the Philippines in defending its sovereign rights, and the two officials discussed the importance of preserving the rights of all nations to fly, sail, and operate – safely and responsibly – wherever international law allows.” 

The US Department of Defense said the two “reaffirmed their commitment to strengthening the US-Philippine alliance in support of their shared vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific” through “cooperation with like-minded partners and bilateral initiatives to strengthen information-sharing,” enhancing the capability of the Philippine military through the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement.

Teodoro and Austin’s conversation follows earlier calls between Philippine Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs Maria Theresa Lazaro and US Deputy Secretary of State Kurt Campbell, and another call between Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo. – 

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Bea Cupin

Bea is a senior multimedia reporter who covers national politics. She's been a journalist since 2011 and has written about Congress, the national police, and the Liberal Party for Rappler.