Philippines in South China Sea threaten global security

Sweden’s defense chief, Pål Jonson, has expressed concern over Beijing’s repeated aggressive actions towards Philippine vessels in the South China Sea. He emphasized that such actions pose a threat to security, undermine stability, and highlight the importance of investing in our security and freedom. Jonson made these remarks during a diplomatic reception in Manila, following a meeting with his Philippine counterpart, Gilberto Teodoro Jr., to discuss expanding defense relations. The Philippines is considering acquiring supersonic fighter jets from Sweden as part of its shift in military focus from combating insurgencies to territorial defense.
“During his speech, Jonson expressed his deep concern about the repeated dangerous maneuvers targeting Philippines vessels in the West Philippine Sea and the South China Sea. Although he did not specifically mention China, his remarks received applause from the audience, which included top Philippine military and security officials, as well as Western and Asian diplomats.

Jonson utilized the name that the Philippines has adopted for the waters known as the exclusive economic zone, which extends from its western coast to the South China Sea. This area is claimed virtually in its entirety by Beijing and heavily guarded by its coast guard, navy, and other ships.

The confrontations between Chinese and Philippine government ships over the disputed shoals have escalated significantly since last year, resulting in collisions that have raised alarm.”
The use of powerful water cannons by China has caused damage to Philippine vessels, as well as injuries to Filipino navy personnel, resulting in strained diplomatic relations. In response, Manila has lodged diplomatic protests and publicly highlighted the actions of the Chinese against the Philippine coast guard and navy vessels, with the aim of garnering international support.

The actions taken by China not only endanger human lives but also undermine regional stability, international law, and threaten security not only in the region but also globally. This was emphasized by Jonson, who stated that these acts pose a threat not only to national security but also to our collective global security.

On May 19, the Philippine coast guard reported a delayed incident in which one of its high-speed boats was obstructed and surrounded by Chinese coast guard vessels as it approached a Philippine territorial outpost in the Second Thomas Shoal. The purpose of the approach was to retrieve a sick Filipino military sailor from a navy boat deployed near the shoal outpost.
“The Philippine coast guard reported that despite clearly communicating the humanitarian purpose of their medical evacuation mission to the Chinese coast guard through radio and public address systems, they still encountered dangerous maneuvers and intentional collisions by the Chinese navy boat while transporting the sick personnel. However, despite these hazardous obstructions, the medical evacuation was ultimately carried out successfully,” stated the Philippine coast guard.

Meanwhile, in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning commented on the situation, stating that China would allow the Philippines to evacuate personnel “if the Philippine side notifies China in advance.” However, she did not address whether this notification had been given in this particular case. Additionally, she warned against any Philippine attempts to permanently occupy the shoal.
A video released by the Philippine coast guard depicted a tense confrontation between Chinese and Philippine boats, with Chinese coast guard vessels closely surrounding and blocking the Philippine boats. In the video, a Filipino crew member can be heard informing the Chinese coast guard that they need to medivac a sick person from one of their boats. A Chinese officer responded in Chinese, and both sides captured video and photos of each other.

Earlier this week, China’s official Xinhua News Agency shared a video showing alleged Philippine military personnel removing over 2,000 meters of fishing nets set by Chinese fishermen near the same area. In the video, a fisherman on a small green boat, accompanied by two others, expressed frustration that the nets had been broken by Filipinos, resulting in their inability to catch any fish. The video caption stated that the nets were cut, and the accompanying Xinhua text mentioned that over 100 meters were removed.
According to Jonson, both Sweden and the Philippines prioritize peace, but they also recognize the importance of strength in achieving it. He emphasized the need to invest in security and freedom. Apart from the Philippines, Sweden has been strengthening its defense ties with the United States, Japan, and Australia. In March, Sweden decided to join the NATO alliance, abandoning its long-standing policy of neutrality following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

Jonson stated that Sweden fully supports the European Union and other governments in their call for restraint and adherence to international law in the South China Sea. The goal is to peacefully resolve differences and reduce tensions in the region. He stressed the importance of upholding the United Nations charter, the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, and other international regulations that protect civilians at sea. These rules should be respected at all times.
Contributions were made by Ken Moritsugu, a writer for the Associated Press, based in Beijing.