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World: China Backs Down in South China Sea After U.S., Philippines Warnings

The Duterte Family's Plan for the Next Election Highlights the Problem of Political Dynasties in the Philippines

  The Duterte Family's Plan for the Next Election Highlights the Problem of Political Dynasties in the Philippines The president's family looks to bolster its position in a country already notorious for political dynastiesThe move is seen as an effort by the Dutertes to enhance their prominence in a country notorious for its dynastic politics—as well as an attempt by the the 76-year-old leader to evade accountability for his war on drugs. The brutal crackdown has left more than 20,000 dead, by some estimates, and seen Duterte become the focus of an International Criminal Court probe.

Chinese vessels have backed down from a Philippine-occupied atoll in the South China Sea after imposing a quasi-blockade that provoked strong warnings from Manila and Washington.

An aerial view shows a Philippine Navy vessel that has been grounded since 1999 to assert the nation's sovereignty over Second Thomas Shoal, a remote South China Sea reef also claimed by China, on March 29, 2014. © AFP via Getty Images/JAY DIRECTO An aerial view shows a Philippine Navy vessel that has been grounded since 1999 to assert the nation's sovereignty over Second Thomas Shoal, a remote South China Sea reef also claimed by China, on March 29, 2014.

Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told reporters on Sunday that "the Chinese will not interfere per my conversation with the Chinese ambassador." He was referring to Beijing's envoy in Manila, Huang Xilian, who received a formal diplomatic protest from the Philippine government last week.

Philippines Warns China of U.S. Defense Treaty After Water Cannon Fired at Filipino Boats

  Philippines Warns China of U.S. Defense Treaty After Water Cannon Fired at Filipino Boats Chinese coast guard water-cannoned Philippine supply ships at the disputed Second Thomas Shoal, prompting Filipino officials to remind them of a U.S. treaty.Second Thomas Shoal, near the Philippine province of Palawan, is a strategic waterway that many countries have tried to claim. The Associated Press reported that China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan all have overlapping claims.

Lorenzana said he and Huang had been in communication since November 16, when three white hull China Coast Guard ships prevented two wooden supply boats from delivering food and other provisions to Philippine troops stationed on Second Thomas Shoal—part of the disputed Spratly Islands archipelago. Philippine leaders said China's ships used water cannons in the clash.

The defense chief said the boats would return at an unspecified time this week, without additional naval or coast guard escorts. "We will see if they are true to their word as our Navy will proceed with the resupply this week," Lorenzana said, according to a report by the Philippine Daily Inquirer on Monday.

A small contingent of the Philippine Marine Corps has occupied the atoll, known in the Philippines as Ayungin Shoal, since its navy deliberately grounded World War II landing vessel BRP Sierra Madre to serve as an outpost in 1999. The island is about 105 nautical miles off Palawan in the West Philippine Sea—Manila's term for the eastern portion of the South China Sea that falls within the Philippine exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Philippines renews VFA, a key military agreement with the United States

  Philippines renews VFA, a key military agreement with the United States The Philippines is restoring a military agreement with the United States that makes it easier for US forces to move in and out the country and signals to China a renewed commitment to the 70-year-old US-Philippine alliance. © Rolex Dela Pena/Pool/AFP/Getty Images US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana shake hands after a bilateral meeting at Camp Aguinaldo military base in Manila on July 30, 2021.

Last Thursday, two days after the water cannon incident, Philippine Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. released a statement accusing one of the Chinese government vessels of firing a water cannon at the Philippine boats, forcing them to abort their resupply mission. The official warned Beijing by invoking the Philippines-United States Mutual Defense Treaty, under which Washington has pledged to defend Philippine vessels from attacks in the contested South China Sea.

Philippines was backed on Friday by the U.S. State Department, which released a statement calling the Chinese actions an "escalation that directly threatens regional peace and stability, escalates regional tensions, infringes upon freedom of navigation in the South China Sea."

The Biden administration also reaffirmed its defense treaty commitments in the apparently effective statement of solidarity with Manila.

Xi says China will not seek dominance over Southeast Asia

  Xi says China will not seek dominance over Southeast Asia BEIJING (AP) — Chinese leader Xi Jinping on Monday said his country will not seek dominance over Southeast Asia or bully its smaller neighbors, amid ongoing friction over the South China Sea. Xi made the remarks during a virtual conference with the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, held to mark the 30th anniversary of relations between China and the grouping. Two diplomats said ASEAN member Myanmar was not represented at Monday's meeting after its military-installed government refused to allow an ASEAN envoy to meet with ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other arrested politicians. Military ruler Gen.

"They have no right to impede, prevent or harass our ships within our EEZ [exclusive economic zone]," the Inquirer quoted Lorenzana as saying, "whether we are fishing or bringing supplies to our detachment in the Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal," he said.

Philippines said China had reduced its coast guard presence and also removed its "maritime militia"—a paramilitary-like armed fishing fleet—which China denies operating.

Queried about the latest South China Sea standoff, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said on Monday that Beijing and Manila were in "close communication."

"China's territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea are supported by a solid historical and jurisprudential basis," said Zhao. "All attempts at challenging China's sovereignty and interests are doomed to fail."

China's government asserts sovereignty over nearly the entirety of the energy-rich South China Sea via historical claims to every single island, atoll, reef and rock inside its so-called "nine-dash line."

China Accused of 'Harassment' in South China Sea After Vowing to Back Down

  China Accused of 'Harassment' in South China Sea After Vowing to Back Down Chinese government vessels continued to follow and photograph Philippine boats resupplying troops on a disputed South China Sea atoll on Tuesday, Manila said.Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told the Philippine Daily Inquirer on Wednesday that a small contingent of Philippine Marines was successfully resupplied with food and other provisions on November 23.

After Chinese vessels blockaded Philippine boats and seized control of Scarborough Shoal in 2012—with the U.S. choosing not to intervene—Manila took Beijing to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague in the case known as Philippines v. China.

The three-year legal proceedings yielded a win for the Philippines, with arbitrators determining that China's claims had no legal basis under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. China rejected the ruling in full.

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