WASHINGTON — China’s blocking of supplies to a Philippine outpost in the South China Sea is “provocative” and raises tensions, the United States said Wednesday, in its latest criticism of China’s assertive conduct in disputed seas of East Asia.
The Philippines, a U.S. ally, protested to China Tuesday its prevention of two Filipino vessels from taking supplies to troops on a decrepit military hospital ship that ran aground 15 years ago on the shallow coral outcrop of the Second Thomas Shoal. The rusty ship has since become the symbol of Philippine sovereignty over the area.
In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the U.S. was troubled by the reported action by China’s coastguard. She said the Philippines has maintained a presence at the shoal since 1999, and other South China Sea claimant nations regularly resupply and repair their outposts without interference.
“This is a provocative move that raises tensions. Pending resolution of competing claims in the South China Sea, there should be no interference with the efforts of claimants to maintain the status quo,” Psaki said in a statement.