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After a stand-off that took place between Chinese and Philippine coast guard vessels on April 23, the U.S. State Department has reiterated that the U.S. will invoke the U.S.-Philippine Mutual Defense treaty should China attack a Philippine vessel in the South China Sea.
According to Manila, a large Chinese ship blocked a Philippine patrol boat and warned it to vacate the area near the Second Thomas Shoal, which is a Philippine-controlled reef in the Spratly Islands, which has also been claimed by China, Vietnam, and Taiwan.
The Philippine coast guard vessel had journalists onboard during the incident, including reporters from The Associated Press. According to AP reporters, the Chinese ship came within 120 to 150 feet of the Philippine patrol boat, which had to reverse its engines to avoid colliding with the ship.
Beijing, however, pointed the finger at the Philippines and accused Manila of staging the near miss for the press, according to Zerohedge.
Meanwhile, Chinses Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said of the incident, "It needs to be stressed that the Philippine vessels intruded into the waters with press staff on board. This makes it clear that it was a premeditated provocation designed to initiate friction, blame it on China and hype up the incident."
The U.S. State Department responded to the near miss with a statement that said the U.S. "stands with The Philippines in the face fo the People's Republic of China (PRC) Coast Guard's continued infringement upon freedom of navigation in the South China Sea."
The U.S. statement then confirmed that the U.S. would go to war with China if Beijing were to attack a Philippine vessel.
"The United States stands with our Philippine allies in upholding the rules-based international maritime order and reaffirms that an armed attack in the Pacific, which includes the South China Sea, on Philippine armed forces, public vessels, or aircraft, including those of the Coast Guard, would invoke U.S. mutual defense commitments under Article IV of the 1951 U.S. Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty," the statement concluded.
This is not the first incident of a Chinese ship interfering with other vessels that enter disputed waters. A Chinese navy vessel pointed a high-powered laser beam at a U.S. Navy ship to blind it and has also sent dozens of aircraft and vessels across the Taiwan Strait to harass the self-governed island nation of Taiwan numerous times in recent months.