The foreign ministry of Japan yesterday reiterated its serious concern over increasing tension at the West Philippine Sea (WPS), 'repeated actions which obstruct freedom of navigation and increase regional tensions, including recent dangerous actions that resulted in damage to the Filipino vessel and injuries to Filipinos onboard.'

Japan said it opposes any unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force as well as any actions that increase tensions in (area),' citing the Joint Vision Statement from the Leaders of Japan, the Philippines and the United States in April 2024.

'Japan is concerned by unlawful maritime claims and steadfastly opposes the dangerous and coercive use of Coast Guard and maritime militia vessels in the South China Sea.'

The Japan foreign ministry also said they 'highly appreciate the government of the Philippines for having consistently complied with the Arbitral Tribunal's award as to the disputes between the Republic of the Philippines and the People's Republic of China (PRC) regarding the South China Sea and shown its commitment to the peaceful settlement of disputes.'

It reiterated that the arbitral award 'is final and legally binding on the parties to the dispute under the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and Japan strongly hopes that the parties' compliance with the award will lead to the peaceful settlement of disputes in the South China Sea.'

Japan further stressed it will continue to cooperate with the international community such as ASEAN member-states and the United States to protect the free and open international order based on the rule of law.

Meanwhile, the United States Department of Defense condemned China for an intentional high-speed ramming of Philippine resupply ships in WPS on Monday, citing risk of 'bigger' and 'more violent' confrontation.

The Pentagon said the collision between a Chinese vessel and the Philippines supply ship near Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal and injured Filipino sailors, with one severely injured is 'very concerning.'

'This kind of behavior is provocative, it's reckless, it's unnecessary and as you highlight, it could lead to something bigger and more violent,' said Pentagon Press Secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder at a press briefing.

'So we are going to continue to stand with our Philippine allies,' he said.

The latest attempt by the China Coast Guard to block the delivery of food and provisions to the BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal left at least eight Filipinos injured - with one losing a finger - and several others disarmed and their inflatable boats punctured by the Chinese.

'We condemn the escalatory and irresponsible actions by the PRC to deny the Philippines from executing a lawful maritime operation in the South China Sea,' Ryder added.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin earlier said 'the Philippines' rightful, legal maritime claims must be protected.'

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said 'this kind of behavior (by China] is provocative… and it could lead to misunderstandings and miscalculations that could lead to something much bigger and much more violent.'

The US and the Philippines have a Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) that obligates the two countries to help defend one another in any major conflict.

State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said Deputy Secretary of State Kurt Campbell spoke over the phone with Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Maria Theresa Lazaro and both reaffirmed that the MDT 'extends to armed attacks on Philippine armed forces, public vessels or aircraft - including those of its coast guard - anywhere in the South China Sea.'

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