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Published on Mar 23, 2019
On March 1, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated: “any armed attack on Philippine forces, aircraft or public vessels in the South China Sea will trigger mutual defense obligations under Article IV of our mutual defense treaty.”
To many analysts, Pompeo’s statement appeared to be the most significant action the Trump administration has taken to “redouble our commitment to established alliances” in the Indo-Pacific region, as promised in the 2017 National Security Strategy.
It has long been unclear, however, whether the South China Sea falls “in the Pacific” — in which case the U.S.-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty would apply in the event of an armed attack there. If not, Manila would probably be on its own.