April 3, 2024 Special Dispatch No. 11245

Chinese Media Outlet Warns That World War III May Break Out In The South China Sea

April 3, 2024
China | Special Dispatch No. 11245

On March 29, 2024, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) mouthpiece China Daily published an article, titled "Manila Must Be Warned Against Horrors Of War," accusing the Philippines of "making provocative moves and engaging in reckless brinkmanship, in an attempt to draw major powers into a conflict."

However, China continues to target Philippine vessels in the West Philippine Sea.[1] As Philippine Defense Secretary Gibo Teodoro recently said: "China is trying to change, unilaterally unclose, an international law by allowing other countries to submit. By the unilateral claim of the whole of the South China Sea, as its internal waters. Meaning to say, its converting the South China Sea into a Lake of China. No? And, that is why it is using Coast Guard vessels, which are huge and massive and equivalent to Navel vessels too, to enforce domestic and criminal Chinese law in the whole of the South China Sea. This is part of their illegal narratives, and this is part of their move to unilaterally pound into submission into other countries, to aqueous into their definition of what international law, with respect to the law of the Sea is..."[2]

Philippine Ambassador to the United States, Jose Manuel "Babe" del Gallego Romualdez also stated: "Many of us believe the real flashpoint is the West Philippine Sea. The aggression we face today is very real because China will not let up on its over-expansive claims in our territorial waters. With all the dangerous maneuvers that are happening, one major accident could trigger the US or the Philippines to invoke the Mutual Defense Treaty – which is why we just have to hope that every morning when President Xi wakes up, he will say, 'today is not the day.'"[3]

It is worth noting that the Philippines and the United States signed a Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) in 1951. The treaty has eight articles and requires both allies to defend each other if another party attacks the Philippines or the United States. Hence, one major accident provoked by China in the West Philippine Sea could trigger the U.S. or the Philippines to invoke the MDT.

During his March 19 official visit to the Philippines Secretary of State Antony Blinken said: "We stand with the Philippines and stand by our ironclad defense commitments, including under the mutual defense treaty."

After the March 23 Chinese water cannon attack against a Philippine vessel and blocking moves at the Ayungin Shoal, the U.S. State Department declared: "The United States stands with its ally the Philippines and condemns the dangerous actions by the People's Republic of China (PRC) against lawful Philippine maritime operations in the South China Sea on March 23. The United States reaffirms that Article IV of the 1951 US-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty extends to armed attacks on Philippine armed forces, public vessels, or aircraft – including those of its Coast Guard – anywhere in the South China Sea." [4]

On April 11, President Joe Biden, Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will meet in Washington, D.C., and will discuss the situation in the South China Sea. [5]

Chinese Coast Guard and maritime militia vessels surround a Philippine Coast Guard patrol boat near Ayungin Shoal in the South China Sea. (Source: Philippine Coast Guard, October 4, 2023)

Below is the China Daily article, which stated that as in 1914, when World War I began, today, exactly 110 years later, once the "Sarajevo gunshot" will be fired in Asia, WWIII may begin:[6]

"Exactly 110 Years Later, Another Relatively Small Country, The Philippines, Has Been Making Provocative Moves And Engaging In Reckless Brinkmanship, In An Attempt To Draw Major Powers Into A Conflict, Which Will Have Unprecedented Consequences For The Asia-Pacific Region"

"In June 1914, the major European powers were forced into a war by the shooting down of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, in Sarajevo, which was part of the relatively small country of Serbia at the time. The ensuing World War I was one of the darkest moments in history, leaving indelible scars that still haunt many countries across the world.

"Exactly 110 years later, another relatively small country, the Philippines, has been making provocative moves and engaging in reckless brinkmanship, in an attempt to draw major powers into a conflict, which will have unprecedented consequences for the Asia-Pacific region.

"The Philippines' provocative moves are targeted some islands and reefs in the South China Sea, including Ren'ai Jiao (Reef) [Ayungin Shoal, also known as Second Thomas Shoal], Huangyan Dao (Island) [Scarborough Shoal], and Tiexian Jiao (Reef) [Sandy Cay, also known as Pag-asa Cay 2]. For example, Manila's 'abnormal rotation and resupply' to Ren'ai Jiao far exceeds the normal humanitarian supply, encouraging fake fishermen to live on maritime features around Huangyan Dao.

"In total violation of the commitment it has made in the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea on 'refraining from action of inhabiting on the presently uninhabited islands, reefs, shoals, cays, and other features,' Manila has organized a large number of personnel to raid Tiexian Jiao."

"The Philippines Has Been Resorting To Military Aggression... In A Bid To Prompt The US Military To Intervene In The Matter, Without Bothering That This Could Spark A Confrontation, Leading To A War Between The Two Major Powers"

"Although the Philippines has launched several such assaults, there is a common feature to them: They all highlight the military factor, in order to test whether the United States will fulfill the promises it has made in the US-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty of 1951. To put it simply, the Philippines has been resorting to military aggression, on the pretext of its armed forces being attacked by their Chinese counterparts, in a bid to prompt the US military to intervene in the matter, without bothering that this could spark a confrontation, leading to a war between the two major powers.

"On Tuesday, Philippine Secretary of Defense Gilberto Teodoro publicly 'consoled' the Philippine soldiers wounded during the Ren'ai Jiao 'abnormal resupply' mission and claimed that 'the Armed Forces of the Philippines are under attack.' By declaring that these actions and injuries will have 'strategic implications,' Manila, it seems, is preparing to play the trick-and-trap game.

"On March 21, a Philippine Coast Guard brigadier general led a team to land on Tiexian Jiao and claimed China had launched 'helicopter airflow attack' on the Philippines' maritime features. And on March 5, Manila announced that the commander of the Western Military Region of the Philippines was reportedly 'wounded' in a 'Chinese water cannon attack' while hiding in the 'resupply vessel.'

"Apart from selling misery to the international community and blackmailing Beijing, Manila has a lot more dirty tricks up its sleeves, such as claiming its 'armed forces (are) under attack' to test the commitment of Washington to intervene on its behalf in any military conflict.

"The 1951 US-Philippine security treaty, a remnant of the Cold War era, provides the Philippines with the US' security umbrella and says that "joint action should be taken against armed attacks". But the Philippines' provocative actions targeting China has prompted the US to gradually extend its interpretation from the geographical scope to cover the disputes over the islands and waters in the South China Sea, and the Philippines' official vessels. As a matter of fact, the US has repeatedly confirmed that it is committed to helping the Philippines in case of a conflict.

"Philippine politicians' flirtation with the US in the hope of gaining the upper hand in the maritime dispute with China is extremely dangerous. The lessons of World War I should be heeded, especially by small states, because triggering a conflict will serve no country's interest."

"US Decision-Makers Should Realize That Before Gavrilo Princip Fired That Fateful Shot In Sarajevo, No One Had Imagined That Europe Would Be Caught In A Bloody World War I... The US Military Intervention On Behalf Of The Philippines Would Also Be Disastrous For Neighboring Countries"

"As for the US, it will commit a grave mistake if it intervenes in any confrontation between Beijing and Manila. The US has no incentive in backing the Philippines' in the latter's illegal, aggressive territorial ambitions. Also, falling into the trap of a regional conflict laid by Manila would be detrimental to the US' national strategy.

"US decision-makers should realize that before Gavrilo Princip fired that fateful shot in Sarajevo, no one had imagined that Europe would be caught in a bloody World War I. They should also realize that the US' military intervention on behalf of the Philippines would also be disastrous for neighboring countries. The South China Sea has been a sea of peace and cooperation. Thanks to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, the countries around the South China Sea are seizing the opportunities to advance their economic development, improve the livelihoods of their peoples, and maintain peace in the region.

"Only a handful of leaders in the Philippines, ignoring the increasing challenges, such as rising prices, at home, are stirring up the extreme sentiments of the people by feeding them anti-China rhetoric. What they don't realize is that once the 'Sarajevo gunshot' is fired in Asia, the innocent people in East and Southeast Asian countries will become the biggest victims of war.

"China follows the principles of peace, development and win-win cooperation. And its exemplary restraint in the face of the Philippines' brinkmanship has prevented the situation in the South China Sea from spiraling out of hand. Therefore, the international community should persuade the Philippines to stop playing the dangerous game and, instead, return to the path of peace, cooperation and development.

"The 'Sarajevo gunshot' should not be heard in the 21st century – in Asia or elsewhere."


[4], April 1, 2024.

[6], March 29, 2024. The article was written by Huang Panyue, deputy director of the Institute of Maritime Strategy Studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.

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