Daily Review: Philippine and Chinese Vessels Collide in the South China Sea

Daily Review: Philippine and Chinese Vessels Collide in the South China Sea
A Chinese coast guard vessel passes by a Philippine coast guard ship near the Philippine-occupied Thitu island, locally called Pag-asa island, in the disputed South China Sea, Dec. 1, 2023 (AP photo by Aaron Favila).

A Chinese vessel and a Philippine supply ship collided yesterday near the Second Thomas Shoal, a disputed territory in the South China Sea, marking the latest and one of the most serious in a series of confrontations in the area between the two sides. The U.S. responded today with a renewed warning to China that the U.S. is obligated to defend the Philippines as a treaty ally. (AP)

Our Take

The Philippines’ relations with China have seen a series of intense whiplashes over the past decade. Ten years ago, under former President Benigno Aquino III, Manila adopted an assertive stance against Beijing’s aggression in the South China Sea, going so far as to seek and win an international arbitration on the two sides’ maritime territorial disputes, which Beijing promptly ignored.

His successor, former President Rodrigo Duterte, made a complete U-turn, soft-pedaling the South China Sea disputes in the hopes it would lead to less confrontation with China and more investments from it—neither of which really materialized—even as he envenomed ties with Washington.

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