Joe Biden concerned about ‘aggressive’ Beijing’s tactics in South China Sea

United States Presdeitn Joe Biden is set to issue a warning to China about its “aggressive” activity in the South China Sea.

It will come during a week of summits with the Japense Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

According to the Financial Times, two senior US officials claim Biden is going to express concern about the situation surrounding the Second Thomas Shoal, a submerged reef that has become one of the many contested features in the Spratly Islands.

The Chinese coastguard has reportedly been using water cannons to prevent the Phillipines from ferrying supplies to marines that are stationed on the Sierra Madre – a rusting ship that was intentionally grounded in 1999 to reinforce the Philippines’ claim to the reef.

The US president will reportedly stress that the US-Philippine Mutual Defense Treaty applies to the Sierra Madre. Officials say he expressed “deep concern” when he spoke with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday.

One official told the Financial Times:“China is underestimating the potential for escalation. We’ve tried to make that clear in a series of conversations . . . that our mutual defence treaty covers Philippine sailors and ships and by extension . . . the Sierra Madre.

“China needs to examine its tactics or risk some serious blowback.”

Clashes between China and the Philippines are part of rising tensions over the South China Sea. Beijing currently claims the sea in almost its entirety.

However, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Taiwan and Indonesia are among countries that have claimed to control parts of the sea.

China says Manila has gone back on a promise to remove the ship, which it says is at risk of disintegrating. However it claims construction material is being delivered to the ship to help reinforce it.

The Philippines has rejected the claims.

US officials say Biden wants to send a message to China, but is worried how Beijing would react if he establishes a “red line”.

“If you give the Chinese a red line, they will go just short of that and do everything but,” said one official.

While there are concerns China could think its actions fall below the US commitments made to the Philippines.

While Jose Manuel Romualdez, Philippine ambassador to the US, hoped the US-Philippine Mutual Defense Treaty would never need to be invoked, but said there would not be “hestitation” in doing so.

In 2016, a United Nations arbitration tribunal ruled China’s claim to the South CHina Sea violated the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea because it was claiming water around rocks and shoals and is basing its claims of assertion on historic rights.

Second Thomas Shoal lies within the Phillippines’ “exclusive economic zone”, a waterway stretching 200 nautical miles off the coast.

The US, Japan, Philippines and Australia recently announced a join military exercise would be conducted in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone – the first of its kind.

According to the Financial Times, the Chinese embassy in Washington said Xi said his call with Biden saw him stress they had sovereignty over the Spratlys, including Second Thomas Shoal.

It said the “root cause” of the issue was Manila “repeatedly going back on its word” to build a permanent outpost on the reef. Liu Pengyu, spokesperson of the Chinese embassy in the US, said: “The US is not a party to the South China Sea issue, yet it keeps meddling in the issue, sowing discord concerning maritime issues between China and the Philippines and falsely accusing China, causing instability in the region.”

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