JULY 5, 2019 – An armed attack on Philippine forces could trigger the United States’ obligations under the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT), said American Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim.
“All I can say is to refer to what Secretary of State (Mike) Pompeo made very clear during his visit to the Philippines a few months ago, which is that if there is an armed attack against Philippine forces, against Philippine aircraft, Philippine public vessels, it will trigger our obligation in the defense treaty,” said Kim during a briefing prior to the US Independence Day celebration on Wednesday in Makati City.
Kim’s remark comes weeks after Sen. Panfilo Lacson said the Philippines should invoke its defense treaty with the U.S. and not wait for armed aggression against Philippine forces in the West Philippine Sea.
This is backdropped by the Recto Bank incident where 22 Filipino fishermen were left at sea for hours after a Chinese vessel hit and sank their boat, and most recently, by reports that the Chinese government had fired anti-ship missiles in the South China Sea.
Signed August 30, 1951, the 67-year-old MDT between the Philippines and the U.S. provides in Article IV that “Each Party recognizes that an armed attack in the Pacific area on either of the Parties would be dangerous to its own peace and safety and declares that it would act to meet the common dangers in accordance with its constitutional processes.”
Kim also assured that the U.S. will “stand by” its obligations to the Philippines should aggression by the Chinese government over the disputed territory continue.
He said the Philippines and China should settle their disputes and avoid “provocative unilateral actions” to maintain order in the West Philippine Sea.
“We have stated our position very clearly for quite some time and I believe our friends in the Philippines agree that China should refrain from such actions,” Kim said.