The United States Department of State has issued a condemnation of the latest actions of the People’s Republic of China in the contested South China Sea. Tensions have been steadily rising in the region, following the alleged interference, harassment and aggression of Chinese government vessels in the region.

The department claims that Chinese naval vessels have gone so far as to deploy water cannons and engage in high-seas blocking manoeuvres in order to impede and obstruct the Philippine vessels engaged in lawful navigational activity. By implementing these practices, the People’s Republic of China is putting the safety of these vessels and their respective crews at high risk.

This behavior constitutes a “threat to peace and stability in the region and undermines the commitment of all nations to freedom of navigation and overflight,” according to the statement. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also criticized the Chinese navy’s tactics and said the United States remains “deeply committed” to preserving the unrestricted navigation that is fundamental to global maritime commerce.

In addition to the USA, a range of nations, international organizations and environmental groups have raised concerns over the reckless and dangerous behavior of the Chinese ships. Such behavior is in direct violation with international law as laid out by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), as well as a number of previous agreements.

Outraged by this latest development, the Philippine Foreign Secretary, Teodoro Locsin Jr, has stated that these actions could constitute a violation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.

According to reports from the United Nations, Chinese vessels have been accused of several such preventive and coercive tactics in the past as a result of their increasing presence in the South China Sea and their continuing dispute with the Philippines over the ownership of adjacent islands and maritime territories.

In response to the actions of the Chinese Navy, the Philippine government has repeatedly requested that international arbiters be brought in to arbitrate the dispute. However, as the Chinese vessels ignore international law and act as a bully on the world’s oceans, no resolution is expected any time soon.

The United States Department of State is closely monitoring the situation in the South China Sea and is putting actions in place to deter the People’s Republic of China from further infringing upon other nations’ navigational rights. As part of its efforts, the United States and its allies in the Asia-Pacific region are engaging in joint naval exercises and operations in the regions waters to ensure the safety of all vessels and crews.

The US department also suggests that similar vigilance and direct action are needed from all nations if the oceans of the world are to remain a safe domain for global maritime trade. The statement concluded by urging the Chinese Military to immediately cease their harassment of foreign vessels and abide by international treaties.