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Philippines won't invoke mutual defense treaty with US after Chinese confrontation at disputed shoal

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Philippines won't invoke mutual defense treaty with US after Chinese confrontation at disputed shoal
News

News

Philippines won't invoke mutual defense treaty with US after Chinese confrontation at disputed shoal

2024-06-21 20:34 Last Updated At:20:40

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The Philippines said Friday it has no plan to invoke its mutual defense treaty with the United States after the Chinese coast guard reportedly rammed, boarded and used machetes and axes to damage two Philippine navy boats in a chaotic faceoff that injured Filipino navy personnel at a disputed shoal in the South China Sea.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s key advisers made the remarks in a televised news conference, squelching speculation that Manila might consider invoking the 1951 treaty to secure U.S. military help after Monday’s confrontation at Second Thomas Shoal, where the Chinese coast guard also seized Philippine navy rifles. The Philippine military chief condemned the incident, likening it to an act of piracy, and demanded that China return the rifles and pay for the damage.

The territorial disputes, which involve China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan, have long been seen as an Asian flashpoint that could pit the U.S. against China if the high seas confrontations escalate into an armed conflict. Washington has repeatedly warned that it’s obligated to help defend the Philippines, its oldest treaty ally in Asia, if Filipino forces, ships and aircraft come under an armed attack, including in the South China Sea.

"That has not been considered in our discussions,” presidential assistant on maritime concerns Andres Centino said when asked if the Philippines was considering activating its treaty with the U.S.

Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin said the government did not consider the Chinese coast guard confrontation an armed attack as stated in the mutual defense treaty with the U.S.

“This was probably a misunderstanding or an accident. We’re not yet ready to classify this as an armed attack,” Bersamin said. “We saw bolo, axe, nothing beyond that.”

In what critics may see as a concession to China, Bersamin said Marcos approved a recommendation for the government to publicize the schedule when navy personnel are deployed to transport food, water and other supplies to the Philippines' territorial outpost in the shoal. A small Philippine navy contingent aboard a long-grounded dilapidated warship, the BRP Sierra Madre, has occupied Second Thomas Shoal since 1999 but China later deployed coast guard, navy and suspected militia ships in a territorial standoff that has become increasingly volatile.

During the hourslong confrontation at the shoal on Monday, Chinese personnel on board more than eight motorboats reportedly rammed and then boarded the two Philippine navy inflatable boats to prevent Filipino navy personnel from transferring food and other supplies, including firearms, to the Philippine ship outpost.

After a scuffle and repeated collisions, the Chinese reportedly seized the boats and damaged them with machetes, knives and hammers. They also seized eight M4 rifles which were packed in cases and other supplies and wounded a number of Filipino navy personnel, including one who lost his right thumb, two Philippine security officials told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

The Philippine navy said only one person was injured but the two officials said at least five were treated on a Philippine coast guard ship that sailed close to the shoal to help rescue the navy personnel. The two officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to discuss the sensitive conflict publicly.

China blamed the Philippines for the confrontation, saying the Filipino personnel “trespassed” into the shoal in defiance of its warnings. The Philippines demanded that Chinese coast guard, navy and other ships immediately leave the shoal, which it says is inside its internationally recognized exclusive economic zone, and said it would not yield to Chinese aggression.

In this photo provided by Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine military chief General Romeo Brawner Jr. pins a medal on a Navy personnel in Palawan province, Philippines on Wednesday June 19, 2024. The Philippines said Friday, June 21, 2024, it has no plan to invoke its mutual defense treaty with the United States after Chinese coast guard vessels rammed, boarded and used machetes and axes to damage two Philippine navy boats in a chaotic faceoff that injured Filipino navy personnel at a disputed shoal in the South China Sea. (Armed Forces of the Philippines via AP)

In this photo provided by Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine military chief General Romeo Brawner Jr. pins a medal on a Navy personnel in Palawan province, Philippines on Wednesday June 19, 2024. The Philippines said Friday, June 21, 2024, it has no plan to invoke its mutual defense treaty with the United States after Chinese coast guard vessels rammed, boarded and used machetes and axes to damage two Philippine navy boats in a chaotic faceoff that injured Filipino navy personnel at a disputed shoal in the South China Sea. (Armed Forces of the Philippines via AP)

In this handout photo provided by Armed Forces of the Philippines, Chinese Coast Guards hold an axe as they approach Philippine troops on a resupply mission in the Second Thomas Shoal at the disputed South China Sea on June 17, 2024. The Philippines said Friday, June 21, 2024, it has no plan to invoke its mutual defense treaty with the United States after Chinese coast guard vessels rammed, boarded and used machetes and axes to damage two Philippine navy boats in a chaotic faceoff that injured Filipino navy personnel at a disputed shoal in the South China Sea. (Armed Forces of the Philippines via AP)

In this handout photo provided by Armed Forces of the Philippines, Chinese Coast Guards hold an axe as they approach Philippine troops on a resupply mission in the Second Thomas Shoal at the disputed South China Sea on June 17, 2024. The Philippines said Friday, June 21, 2024, it has no plan to invoke its mutual defense treaty with the United States after Chinese coast guard vessels rammed, boarded and used machetes and axes to damage two Philippine navy boats in a chaotic faceoff that injured Filipino navy personnel at a disputed shoal in the South China Sea. (Armed Forces of the Philippines via AP)

In this handout photo provided by Armed Forces of the Philippines, Chinese Coast Guard hold knives and machetes as they approach Philippine troops on a resupply mission in the Second Thomas Shoal at the disputed South China Sea on June 17, 2024. The Philippines said Friday, June 21, 2024, it has no plan to invoke its mutual defense treaty with the United States after Chinese coast guard vessels rammed, boarded and used machetes and axes to damage two Philippine navy boats in a chaotic faceoff that injured Filipino navy personnel at a disputed shoal in the South China Sea. (Armed Forces of the Philippines via AP)

In this handout photo provided by Armed Forces of the Philippines, Chinese Coast Guard hold knives and machetes as they approach Philippine troops on a resupply mission in the Second Thomas Shoal at the disputed South China Sea on June 17, 2024. The Philippines said Friday, June 21, 2024, it has no plan to invoke its mutual defense treaty with the United States after Chinese coast guard vessels rammed, boarded and used machetes and axes to damage two Philippine navy boats in a chaotic faceoff that injured Filipino navy personnel at a disputed shoal in the South China Sea. (Armed Forces of the Philippines via AP)

TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — Yemen's Houthi rebels on Friday claimed responsibility for an early morning drone strike that hit a part of central Tel Aviv near the United States Embassy, leaving at least 10 injured and one dead.

The aerial strike rumbled through the streets causing shards of shrapnel to rain down and spreading shards of glass over a large radius. The Houthis have repeatedly launched drones and missiles toward Israel throughout the nine-month-long war, in solidarity with the Palestinian people and against Israel. But until Friday, all were intercepted by either Israel or Western allies with forces stationed in the region.

Yahya Sare'e, the Houthis' spokesperson, said in a statement published on the social media platform X that the strike was made in retaliation to the war underway in Gaza between Israel and Hamas and had hit one of many of the group's targets.

The Houthis claimed that their newest drones can bypass Israel's aerial defense systems. However, a spokesperson for Israel's military said on Friday that the explosive-laden drone had been identified on Thursday and attributed the hit to “human error.” The military's assessment of aerial threats has not changed because, the military said, Israel's adversaries have attempted such strikes for months.

“It was a terror attack that was targeted to kill civilians in Israel,” the Israeli spokesperson said.

The Houthi strike hit hours after Israel's military confirmed one of its airstrikes had killed a Hezbollah commander and other militants in southern Lebanon. Israel has so far not made attacks on the Houthis, allowing its allies instead to take the lead as it focuses its efforts on the war in Gaza and ongoing fighting with Lebanon’s Hezbollah militant group.

It comes as international mediators continue to hold out hope for a cease-fire agreement, pushing Israel and Hamas toward a phased deal that would halt fighting and free about 120 hostages held by the militant group in Gaza.

The prospects a deal could improve as Israeli leaders signal their operation underway in Rafah is close to finished. However, fears of potential escalation resurfaced on Thursday after Israel’s far-right national security minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, visited Jerusalem’s most sensitive holy site on Thursday to pray for the return of Israeli hostages, he said, “without a reckless deal, without surrendering.”

Local police in Tel Aviv said that the Friday blast sounded at around 3:10 a.m., reverberating to nearby cities and physically injuring at least 10 people. Tel Aviv District Commander Peretz Amar said officers could not locate the point of contact, suggesting the explosion occurred in the air.

“The force of the explosion caused damage that is not great but is spread over a large area. At the moment we don’t know what the object was,” Amar said.

Israel possesses a multilayered aerial defense system, capable of intercepting threats ranging from long-range ballistic missiles to drones and short-range missiles. These systems have intercepted thousands of projectiles throughout the war. But officials warn they are not 100% effective, and the systems appear to have struggled against small and hard-to-detect attack drones. It was not known which, if any, system was deployed.

Like Hamas, Hezbollah and the Houthis are backed by Israel’s arch enemy, Iran. Israel for the most part also has avoided a direct confrontation with Iran throughout the war. Iran launched hundreds of drones and missiles at Israel during a single incident in April in response to Israel’s alleged assassination of a pair of Iranian generals in Syria at the time.

The war in Gaza, which was sparked by Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel, has killed more than 38,600 people, according to the territory’s Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between combatants and civilians in its count. The war has created a humanitarian catastrophe in the coastal Palestinian territory, displaced most of its 2.3 million population and triggered widespread hunger.

Hamas’ October attack killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and militants took about 250 hostage. About 120 remain in captivity, with about a third of them believed to be dead, according to Israeli authorities.

__

Metz reported from Rabat, Morocco.

Find more of AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war

A man films the scene after a deadly explosion, from his rooftop in Tel Aviv, Israel, Friday, July 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

A man films the scene after a deadly explosion, from his rooftop in Tel Aviv, Israel, Friday, July 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

Israelis gather at the scene of a deadly explosion in Tel Aviv, Israel, Friday, July 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

Israelis gather at the scene of a deadly explosion in Tel Aviv, Israel, Friday, July 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

A runner stops to speak with Israeli police investigating the scene of a deadly explosion in Tel Aviv, Israel, Friday, July 19, 2024.(AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

A runner stops to speak with Israeli police investigating the scene of a deadly explosion in Tel Aviv, Israel, Friday, July 19, 2024.(AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

People watch from their balcony as Israeli police investigate the scene of a deadly explosion in Tel Aviv, Israel, Friday, July 19, 2024.(AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

People watch from their balcony as Israeli police investigate the scene of a deadly explosion in Tel Aviv, Israel, Friday, July 19, 2024.(AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

A man eats breakfast in a cafe near the scene of a deadly explosion in Tel Aviv, Israel, Friday, July 19, 2024.(AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

A man eats breakfast in a cafe near the scene of a deadly explosion in Tel Aviv, Israel, Friday, July 19, 2024.(AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

A man films the scene of a deadly explosion, from his rooftop in Tel Aviv, Israel, Friday, July 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

A man films the scene of a deadly explosion, from his rooftop in Tel Aviv, Israel, Friday, July 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

Israeli police investigate the scene of a deadly explosion in Tel Aviv, Israel, Friday, July 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

Israeli police investigate the scene of a deadly explosion in Tel Aviv, Israel, Friday, July 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

Caution tape surrounds debris at the scene of a deadly explosion in Tel Aviv, Israel, early Friday, July 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Erik Marmor)

Caution tape surrounds debris at the scene of a deadly explosion in Tel Aviv, Israel, early Friday, July 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Erik Marmor)

Israeli police and first responders gather at the scene of a deadly explosion in Tel Aviv, Israel, early Friday, July 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Erik Marmor)

Israeli police and first responders gather at the scene of a deadly explosion in Tel Aviv, Israel, early Friday, July 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Erik Marmor)

People gather at the scene of an deadly explosion in Tel Aviv, Israel, early Friday, July 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Erik Marmor)

People gather at the scene of an deadly explosion in Tel Aviv, Israel, early Friday, July 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Erik Marmor)

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