Attack on PHL in South China Sea triggers 1951 MDT obligations: US State Secretary

United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during a joint press conference with Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. at the DFA office in Pasay City on March 1 said that the South China Sea is part of the Pacific and any armed attack on Philippine forces will trigger 1951 US-PHL Mutual Defense Treaty obligations.

“As the South China Sea is part of the Pacific, any armed attack on Philippine forces, aircraft, or public vessels in the South China Sea will trigger mutual defense obligations under Article 4 of our Mutual Defense Treaty,” Secretary Pompeo said.

Article 4 of the MDT stipulates that “each Party recognizes that an armed attack in the Pacific area on either of the Parties would be dangerous to its own peace and safety and declares that it would act to meet the common dangers in accordance with its constitutional processes.”

“Any such armed attack and all measures taken as a result thereof shall be immediately reported to the Security Council of the United Nations, Such measures shall be terminated when the Security Council has taken the measures necessary to restore and maintain international peace and security,” the MDT adds.

Pompeo noted that as an island nation, Philippines depends on free and unobstructed access to the seas. “China’s island building and military activities in the South China Sea threaten your sovereignty, security, and therefor economic livelihood, as well as that of the United States,” he said.