U.S. Defence Chief accuses China of harassing Philippines over maritime disputes

U.S. Defence Chief Lloyd Austin accuses China of harassing the Philippines over South China Sea disputes, raising tensions.

The United States Secretary of Defence has levelled accusations against China, alleging harassment of the Philippines in the ongoing maritime disputes in the South China Sea. Tensions have escalated as the US raises concerns over China’s actions in the region.

In recent statements, U.S. Defence Chief Lloyd Austin condemned what he described as China’s aggressive behaviour towards the Philippines. He highlighted instances of harassment reported by the Philippines, including the presence of Chinese vessels in disputed waters and their refusal to leave despite diplomatic protests.

The South China Sea has long been a contentious area, with multiple countries laying claim to various islands and maritime territories. China’s expansive claims, often referred to as the “nine-dash line,” have been a focal point of disputes, drawing criticism and pushback from neighbouring nations and the international community.

The Philippines, in particular, has been vocal about its grievances regarding China’s activities in the South China Sea. The country has filed diplomatic protests over the presence of Chinese vessels near its exclusive economic zone (EEZ), alleging intrusions into its sovereign territory and interference with fishing activities.

The accusations made by the U.S. defence chief underscore growing concerns over China’s assertive behaviour in the region. The U.S. has repeatedly expressed support for its allies and partners in the Asia-Pacific region, including the Philippines, in the face of what it perceives as Chinese aggression.

The U.S. has also stepped up its military presence and engagement in the Indo-Pacific, conducting freedom of navigation operations and joint exercises with regional allies and partners. These actions are seen as a response to China’s increasing assertiveness and efforts to establish dominance in the South China Sea.

China, however, has consistently defended its actions in the South China Sea, asserting its sovereignty over the disputed territories. The Chinese government has accused the U.S. of provocative behaviour and interference in regional affairs, warning against attempts to destabilise the region.

The escalating tensions between the U.S. and China over maritime disputes in the South China Sea have raised concerns about the risk of conflict and the potential for destabilising the region. Efforts to resolve these disputes through diplomatic means have thus far yielded limited progress, leaving the situation tense and unresolved.