News Release

US, Japan express ‘serious’ concern over China’s actions in the South China Sea, vow to aid PH in developing maritime capability

The United States and Japan have expressed their serious concerns regarding the situation in the South China Sea as well as in the East China Sea, in particular the repeated attempts by the Chinese against Philippine vessels in supplying their troops in the Second Thomas Shoal, locally known as Ayungin Shoal.

“We steadfastly oppose the dangerous and coercive use of Coast Guard and maritime militia vessels in the South China Sea, as well as efforts to disrupt other countries’ offshore resource exploitation,” the leaders of the Philippines, US, and Japan said in a Joint Vision Statement released on Thursday.

“We reiterate serious concern over the PRC’s repeated obstruction of Philippine vessels’ exercise of high seas freedom of navigation and the disruption of supply lines to Second Thomas Shoal, which constitute dangerous and destabilizing conduct,” it further stated.

The three nations called on China to abide by the 2016 Arbitral ruling that determined that the feature lies within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

In the East China Sea, they expressed serious concerns regarding the situation and reiterated their strong opposition to any attempts by China to unilaterally change the status quo by force or coercion, including actions undermining Japan’s longstanding and peaceful administration of the Senkaku Islands.

At the same time, they welcomed recent cooperation among the three nations in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific and commit to deepening that cooperation.

The US and Japan vowed to continue supporting the capacity of the Philippine Coast Guard, including through Japan’s recent provision of 12 Coast Guard vessels and plans to provide five additional vessels to the Philippines.

And following the first-ever joint exercise between their coast guards last year, the US looks forward to welcoming the Philippine and Japan Coast Guard representatives to a US Coast Guard patrol in the Indo-Pacific this year.

“Within the next year, our coast guards also plan to conduct an at-sea trilateral exercise and other maritime activities in the Indo-Pacific to improve interoperability and advance maritime security and safety,” the statement said.

The three nations also expressed their concern over the Chinese in preventing Filipino and Japanese fishermen from their traditional fishing grounds, all within their exclusive maritime zones.

“We announce the establishment of a trilateral maritime dialogue to enhance coordination and collective responses to promote maritime cooperation. We are concerned about illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing. We support the ability of Filipino and Japanese fisherfolk to pursue their traditional livelihoods,” they said.

To build regional capacity and address threats posed by transnational crime, illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, and other maritime challenges, Japan, the Philippines, and the US plan to expand their efforts to provide maritime law enforcement training and support to partner countries in the region. PND