The United States Navy has announced it will send troops to augment the currently under-manned Philippine Navy inside the grounded BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal.
The move is seen as response to China’s aggression by putting surface-to-air missiles in the Vietnamese-claimed Paracel Islands.
Vietnam, US, and EU had criticized China’s deliberate recklessness on the disputed waters..
The Washington Times disclosed that the issue became the subject on Tuesday’s hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee led by Sen. John McCain with Admiral Harry Harris; commander of the US Pacific Command.
McCain was quizzing Harris on how the United States will respond to an attack by China on the territory such as the Ayungin Shoal, or against the armed forces of the Philippines stationed in the area under the US-Philippines treaty.
The Arizona Republican senator himself raised the possibility of providing a ‘direct U.S. military guarantee’ to the Philippines, to which Harris replied: “I think we should consider it, and we should have a discussion of it in the policy arena.”.
“Our obligations under the treaty with the Philippines [are] pretty clear, and whether we extend that to Second Thomas Shoal, which we don’t hold is Philippine sovereign territory because we don’t have a position on sovereignty, we should have that discussion, I believe,” the Navy official said.
His position on providing the Philippines a new guarantee was seconded by Sen. Tom Cotton who said: “I think deterrence works best when deterrence is clear, as with relationships that we have with NATO and Taiwan.”
BRP Sierra Madre was deliberately grounded at Ayungin Shoal by the Philippine military to prevent China from taking control of the island. It is now home to about a dozen Marines protecting the territory.
Meanwhile, Harris has been very vocal about his apprehensions over China’s aggressive actions; the latest of which involved deploying surface-to-air missile system and fighter jets in Paracels chain Woody Island.
The Navy admiral went to the extent of suggesting about deploying more Naval assets in the region such as an attack submarine and additional destroyers to counter China’s recent moves.
Both US and EU warned China against its behavior over the case submitted by the Philippines to international tribunal.
The United Sates Navy said it would deploy not only troops, but also attack submarines and aircraft carriers to stop China’s land grabbing activities in the region.