President Joe Biden’s Secretary of State Anthony Blinken issued a stern warning to China on Wednesday after the nation apparently threatened the Philippines, a U.S. ally, with “lethal force” in areas that could include the South China Sea, through which up to two-thirds of the world’s oil travels.
“Secretary Blinken stressed the importance of the Mutual Defense Treaty for the security of both nations, and its clear application to armed attacks against the Philippines armed forces, public vessels, or aircraft in the Pacific, which includes the South China Sea,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said, according to the Washington Examiner.
“The big concern”
The warning was similar to a statement made by then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo just before President Donald Trump left office reminding China that an attack against a U.S. ally would be treated as an attack against the United States.
But China has claimed large amounts of territory in the South China Sea that do not belong to it, the Examiner notes, and is now threatening attacks on nations that invade that territory.
“The big concern is that through the militarization of the South China Sea…[freedom of] navigation is at risk through the South China Sea,” one former Trump administration official said, according to the Examiner.
“Half to two-thirds of seaborne oil transport in the world goes through the South China Sea, and a bunch of non-energy-related waterway,” the official added.
The latest reported threats are part of a larger pattern of Chinese aggression that includes a lack of respect for sovereign rights previously given to territories Taiwan and Hong Kong, and even a failure to give honest information about the coronavirus to the U.S. in the early days of infection.
And China has not shown itself above using force against those it thinks are infringing on its territory. In August, one of its massive white-hulled vessels struck and sank a Vietnamese fishing boat in the South China Sea, as the Examiner reported.
“They are being understandably alarmist because they have good reason for alarm,” Center for Strategic and International Studies analyst Gregory Poling said of the Philippine foreign secretary’s assessment, according to the Examiner. “If the Chinese Coast Guard is now authorized to use lethal force…and they consider waters 50 miles from the coast of the Philippines to be Chinese waters, well, now you’ve got a big problem.”
“They’re not competition for us”
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has not exactly been cooperative with the U.S. in its efforts to keep relations civil between the two nations, but Blinken’s statement was a good step toward a recognition of the scope of the Chinese problem in the region. “They understand that they don’t have time to play around,” Poling remarked, as the Examiner reported.
For its part, the Biden administration’s relationship with China has been enigmatic, with Biden having shown disdain for China’s power and ability to compete with the U.S. on the campaign trail, and, at the same time, failing to acknowledge his son’s reported business dealings in the country.
“China is going to eat our lunch? Come on, man,” Biden said on the campaign trail in May, according to NBC News. “I mean, you know, they’re not bad folks, folks. But guess what? They’re not competition for us.”