Philippines warns clashes in South China Sea could spiral into war

The South China Sea, a hotbed of geopolitical tension, has witnessed a significant escalation recently. The Philippines’ President, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., has issued a stern warning to China, cautioning against any aggressive actions that could cross a critical “red line”. He emphasized that any harm inflicted on Filipino citizens due to China’s deliberate actions could be perceived as an act of war. This warning comes in the wake of increased confrontations and ambiguous “grey-zone activities” by Chinese vessels within the Philippines’ 200-mile exclusive economic zone. The current scenario highlights the precarious nature of territorial disputes in the region and the looming threat of these tensions spiralling into a full-scale war.

In the midst of escalating tensions, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the President of the Philippines, has hinted at the possibility of a war with China. This comes in response to the increasingly hostile encounters with the Chinese Coast Guard. When questioned about the potential repercussions if a Filipino serviceman were to lose his life due to the actions of the Chinese coast guard, Marcos responded assertively. He stated that not just a serviceman, but if any Filipino citizen were to be killed due to a deliberate act, it would be tantamount to an act of war. He affirmed that such an event would almost certainly cross a “red line”.

At a global defence conference in Singapore, Marcos stated that the United States, which shares a mutual defence agreement with the Philippines, is expected to adhere to the same principles. This is the first instance where the president has hinted at situations that could potentially invoke the 1951 treaty’s clause for assistance. Since the previous August, there have been numerous instances of Chinese coast guard vessels employing water cannons against Philippine ships delivering supplies to a military base in the contested South China Sea region, resulting in damage to the ships and injuries to Filipino sailors.

Marcos conveyed their distress over the injuries they have already sustained, while expressing gratitude that the situation has not yet escalated to the loss of life. He cautioned that such a tragic event would represent a crossing of the Rubicon, a point of no return. The assertive behaviour of the Chinese coast guard, coupled with Manila’s unwavering defiance, has amplified fears that the longstanding territorial dispute in the crucial South China Sea could potentially spiral into an armed clash.

The Philippines consistently dispatches supply vessels to the Sierra Madre, an aging ex-US military ship that was deliberately grounded in 1999 on the Second Thomas Shoal. This sandbank, located in the South China Sea and also claimed by China, is where a small contingent of Filipino soldiers are stationed.

From the start of the previous year, China has intensified its attempts to interfere with the resupply missions, deploying coast guard and maritime militia vessels. In 2023, Manila reported an incident where a Chinese ship used a laser to target its vessel. Furthermore, there were several ship collisions last year, which the Philippines attributed to obstruction tactics employed by China.

Marcos’ comments were made following his address to a gathering of defence ministers, military leaders, diplomats, and analysts at the Shangri-La Dialogue. He portrayed his nation as a guardian of a regional security framework grounded in international law and agreements. He highlighted the contrast between their efforts and those of another unspecified actor. He further emphasized that the Philippines is at the forefront in the South China Sea, striving to uphold the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, which regulates the rights of coastal nations.

China’s assertion of almost complete control over the South China Sea conflicts with the economic privileges and, in some instances, the sovereignty of numerous coastal nations under Unclos. However, since taking office in mid-2022, Marcos has transformed his country into the most outspoken opponent of China on this matter.

Marcos has revitalized Manila’s partnership with the US, presiding over the most significant bilateral military drills in thirty years and granting US forces enhanced access to his nation’s bases. “I have no intention of backing down. Filipinos do not back down,” declared Marcos.

He affirmed the right of the region’s nations to shape their own destiny, rather than being a mere “stage” for the rivalry of superpowers. He noted that the strategic competition between the US and China was limiting the options of regional countries and intensifying tensions. “China’s influential role [in the region] is an enduring reality,” stated Marcos. “However, the stabilizing influence of the US remains crucial.”

China’s assertive stance in the South China Sea, marked by territorial claims and aggressive actions, has escalated tensions with the Philippines. This has led to a revitalization of Manila’s alliance with the US, indicating a clear pushback. The enduring territorial dispute, coupled with China’s refusal to yield, has heightened the risk of military conflict. If unchecked, these tensions could potentially escalate into a full-blown war between the Philippines and China, disrupting regional stability and international law. Therefore, diplomatic efforts and adherence to international treaties are crucial to prevent such a scenario.







Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *