WASHINGTON — President Biden said Wednesday that the US military is willing to fight nuclear-armed China on behalf of the Philippines after ships from the two Asian countries collided near a disputed, unpopulated island in the South China Sea.
“The United States defense agreement with the Philippines is ironclad. Any attack on the Filipino aircraft, vessels or armed forces will invoke our mutual defense treaty with the Philippines,” Biden said during a joint press conference at the White House alongside Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.
The 1951 mutual defense pact says the US and the Philippines will jointly “defend themselves against external armed attack.”
On Sunday, two of Manila’s military ships collided with a Chinese vessel that sought to block them from reaching the disputed Second Thomas Shoal, which is strategically located along important commercial shipping routes but also submerged at high tide.
The Second Thomas Shoal is located much closer to the Philippines than to China and is one of dozens of islands in the South China Sea disputed by China and the governments of nearby countries including Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.
Biden has generally taken a more conciliatory approach toward China and in the same Rose Garden remarks reminisced about past travels while vice president with Chinese President Xi Jinping. He said he sought “competition” but that “I’m not looking for conflict” with China.
House Republicans launched an impeachment inquiry last month into the president’s role in his son Hunter and brother James Biden’s foreign business dealings, including a pair of ventures with Chinese government-linked companies that resulted in millions of dollars of income going to the Bidens.
President Biden said the US is prepared to fight China on behalf of the Philippines after ships from the two countries collided in the South China Sea.Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Footage of the collision between a Chinese Coast Guard ship and a Philippines’ resupply boat near the Second Thomas Shoal on Oct. 22, 2023.Photo by HANDOUT/Chinese Coast Guard /AFP via Getty Images
According to Biden, any attack on a “Filipino aircraft, vessels or armed forces will invoke our mutual defense treaty” with the country.Armed Forces of the Philippines via AP
The Second Thomas Shoal is one of dozens of islands in the South China Sea disputed by China and other countries in the region.Philippine Coast Guard/HANDOUT/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Biden met with his relatives’ partners in both Chinese government-linked ventures and at one point was penciled in for a 10% cut in a venture that subsequently netted his son and brother about $6.1 million.
Republicans have faulted Biden for not doing more to press China to be transparent about the origins of COVID-19, which killed more than 1.1 million Americans after possibly leaking from a Wuhan lab, and for not more strongly condemning China’s fentanyl exports that are fueling record-high US drug overdose deaths.