Speaking at a press conference today, Philippines Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said that the US was obliged to provide full military protection to all of the Philippines’ territorial claims in the South China Sea.
Gazmin said that both Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had recently pledged that the US would honor the 1951 military pact. The treaty obliges both sides to fight wars to protect whatever either of them considers a part of their “territorial integrity,” which would include disputed islands in the South China Sea.
A number of unpopulated islands in the South China Sea are disputed, mutually claimed by China, the Philippines, Vietnam, and/or Indonesia. In general, the US has been supporting the claims of the last three, while accusing China of provocation with their own claims.
The Chinese military has recently issued statements objecting to the US military presence and backing of the Philippines in the region, saying it threatens to provoke a broad military fight in the Pacific. Philippine warships have recently attempted to capture Chinese fighting ships in the region, leading to a growing Chinese naval presence in the area.