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WASHINGTON -- Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder provided the following readout:
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III spoke with Philippine Officer in Charge of the Department of National Defense Carlito Galvez today to discuss concerning developments in the South China Sea, including a recent incident in which the People’s Republic of China (PRC) Coast Guard directed a military-grade laser at the crew of a Philippine Coast Guard vessel lawfully operating around Second Thomas Shoal.
Secretary Austin underscored the United States’ commitment to supporting the lawful rights and operations of the Philippines in the South China Sea, including around the Second Thomas Shoal, which the 2016 Arbitral Tribunal unequivocally ruled is a part of the Philippine exclusive economic zone. He reiterated that an armed attack on Philippine armed forces, aircraft, and public vessels, including those of its Coast Guard, anywhere in the South China Sea, would invoke U.S. mutual defense commitments under Article IV of the 1951 U.S.-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty.
The two leaders discussed proposals to deepen operational cooperation and enhance the United States and the Philippines’ shared security, including the recent decision to resume combined maritime activities in the South China Sea. Secretary Austin reaffirmed the Department’s commitment to bolstering the Philippines’ defense capabilities and capacity to resist coercion as the Allies develop a Security Sector Assistance Roadmap.
Secretary Austin and Secretary Galvez also discussed opportunities to expand security cooperation with like-minded nations, such as Japan, that seek to uphold the rules-based international order and our shared vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific. They concluded the call by committing to advance an ambitious set of initiatives leading up to the 2+2 Ministerial in Washington, D.C. this spring as the United States and the Philippines rapidly modernize alliance cooperation.