US Calls Out ‘Escalatory’ China Moves as Manila Releases Videos

(Bloomberg) -- The US State Department called out China’s “escalatory actions” in the South China Sea, as the Philippine military released videos of what it described as China’s “brutal assault” in disputed waters.

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State Secretary Antony Blinken reiterated Washington’s “ironclad commitments” to its defense treaty with Manila during a phone call with his Philippine counterpart Enrique Manalo on Wednesday, the US department said in a readout.

The top diplomats held the call days after one of the most serious encounters between China and the Philippines in contested waters during a Manila mission to resupply troops at a military outpost in Second Thomas Shoal. A Filipino crew lost his finger during Monday’s skirmish, where Chinese forces reportedly seized Philippine guns, punctured boats and carried bladed weapons.

The Philippines’ latest actions at sea were “purely an unreasonable provocation,” China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Lin Jian said at a regular briefing in Beijing on Thursday.

“China will resolutely safeguard its legitimate rights and interests and at the same time urge the Philippine side to immediately stop its infringement and provocation at sea, otherwise it will bear the consequences,” he said.

The Philippine military released the videos of the encounter late Wednesday. One clip showed the Chinese Coast Guard “threatening to injure” a Filipino soldier with a pickaxe, according to the military. Chinese forces also used “blaring sirens and blinding strobe lights” during Monday’s incident, it added.

Commodore Roy Vincent Trinidad, spokesman for the Philippine Navy, said Filipino troops have been told not to use force unless in self defense.

“Our actions will always be guided by the rules of engagement, it will always be within the bounds of international law,” Trinidad told reporters Thursday.

--With assistance from Bingyan Wang and Manolo Serapio Jr..

(Updates with comments from China’s foreign ministry and Philippine Navy.)

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