MANILA: A South China Sea confrontation this week, in which Chinese coast guard personnel brandished weapons and rammed Philippine naval vessels, did not trigger Manila’s mutual defence pact with the United States, a spokesperson for President Ferdinand Marcos said on Friday (Jun 21).

Footage released by Manila showed Chinese coast guard sailors brandishing knives, an axe and other weapons in Monday’s clash, in which a Filipino sailor lost a thumb, as they stopped a Philippine navy attempt to resupply a Filipino garrison on a derelict warship.

“We are not yet ready to consider this as an armed attack,” President Ferdinand Marcos’ executive secretary Lucas Bersamin told reporters when asked if Manila would ask Washington to honour the 1951 treaty.

The clash was the latest in a series of escalating confrontations as Beijing steps up efforts to push its claims to the disputed area

The US-Philippines mutual defence pact requires both parties to come to the other’s defence in case of an “armed attack” against vessels, aircraft, military and coast guard anywhere in the Pacific theatre, which Washington says includes the South China Sea.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Philippine Foreign Secretary Enrique Manalo on Wednesday about the recent “escalatory actions” by China, the State Department said in a statement.

Blinken said China’s actions “undermine regional peace and stability and underscored the US’ ironclad commitments to the Philippines under our Mutual Defense Treaty”.

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