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NEWS | Dec. 14, 2023

Readout of Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III's Call With Philippine Secretary of National Defense Gilberto Teodoro Jr.

U.S. Department of Defense

Pentagon Press Secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder provided the following readout: 

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III and Philippine Secretary of National Defense Gilberto Teodoro Jr. spoke by phone today. The Secretaries discussed coercive and unlawful actions by the People's Republic of China in the South China Sea over the weekend, including the unprovoked use of acoustic devices, water cannons, and reckless maneuvers at Scarborough Shoal and Second Thomas Shoal, which caused a collision and damage to lawfully operating Philippine vessels in the Philippines' Exclusive Economic Zone.

Secretary Austin expressed U.S. support for the Philippines in defending its sovereign rights in accordance with international law, emphasizing that the United States' commitment to the Philippines remains ironclad. Secretary Austin reiterated that the Mutual Defense Treaty extends to both countries' armed forces, public vessels, and aircraft—including those of their respective Coast Guards—anywhere in the Pacific, to include the South China Sea. He commended the professionalism of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in the face of unlawful behavior.

The Secretaries highlighted the Philippines' recent bilateral maritime activities in the South China Sea with the United States and Australia. They agreed to bolster bilateral and multilateral coordination with other likeminded partners to enhance interoperability and accelerate the modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. They also reaffirmed their countries' shared vision of a free and open region grounded in transparency, the rule of law, respect for sovereignty, and the peaceful resolution of disputes.

Secretary Austin also expressed condolences for the horrific terrorist attack that occurred at Mindanao State University on December 3, killing at least four people and injuring more than 50 others. Secretary Austin also offered his sympathy for the December 2 earthquake in Mindanao that killed three people and damaged local homes and infrastructure.