Feb 13, 2023 - World

U.S. backs Philippines against China's government in laser dispute

U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. State Department issued a statement on Monday supporting the Philippines after the country accused a Chinese Coast Guard ship of using a "military-grade" laser to temporarily blind a Filipino crew in the South China Sea.

The big picture: The episode involving a Philippine Coast Guard ship is the latest sign of rising tensions in the region after the Philippines and the U.S. reached a military agreement earlier this month.

  • The agreement came amid growing concern over China's increasing assertiveness in the disputed South China Sea and its aggression toward Taiwan.
  • China pushed back on the countries' agreement, saying it would endanger the region's peace and stability.

Catch up quick: The Philippines alleges that the Chinese vessel "illuminated the green laser light twice" and "made dangerous maneuvers" to block their fleet from delivering supplies to another ship on Feb. 6.

  • Beijng had previously been accused of using lasers to target U.S. operations, according to a CNN report.
  • China's Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin said the coast guard conducted actions according to the law and that the Philippine ship had “trespassed", Time reports.

What they're saying: "The United States stands with our Philippine allies in upholding the rules-based international maritime order," U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement.

  • An attack on Philippine armed forces would "invoke U.S. mutual defense commitments," the statement added.

Between the lines: This laser accusation comes as China is accused of using a spy balloon to collect information on U.S. intelligence.

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