Joe Biden’s administration will reject Beijing’s territorial claims in the South China Sea, and continue to back Philippine defense.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken made the declaration on July 11, ahead of the fifth anniversary of a ruling by an independent arbitration tribunal. That ruling supports the Philippines’s claim against Chinese activities in its alleged South China Sea region.

Blinken urged the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to respect international law.

“[The CCP must] cease its provocative behavior, and take steps to reassure the international community that it is committed to the rules-based maritime order that respects the rights of all countries, big and small,” he said in a statement.

China has been accused of falsely claiming its territorial rights in several portions of the South China Sea that the Philippines, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Vietnam have already claimed to be theirs.

Conflict escalated earlier this year with the Philippines after the CCP reportedly sent 220 vessels to Julian Felipe Reef in March. Manila called the action a “clear provocative action of militarizing the area.”

Blinken denounced the CCP’s behavior, saying the U.S. government would continue the Trump administration’s tough stance on China.

“The United States reaffirms its July 13, 2020 policy regarding maritime claims in the South China Sea,” he said of the former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. 

Last year Pompeo announced that the United States backed the 2016 ruling.

“Beijing’s claims to offshore resources across most of the South China Sea are completely unlawful, as is its campaign of bullying to control them,” he said in an earlier statement.

Pledging to stand by the South East Asian country, Blinken stressed the United States would respond if Chinese military commits any hostile move in the Philippine-claimed region. He cited a decades-old mutual defense treaty.

“We also reaffirm that an armed attack on Philippine armed forces, public vessels, or aircraft in the South China Sea would invoke U.S. mutual defense commitments under Article IV of the 1951 US-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty,” he said.

The United States’s top diplomat also demanded the CCP respects its international obligations, especially since the regime denounced the tribunal’s ruling five years ago as a “sham.”

“The tribunal stated that the PRC has no lawful claim to the area determined by the arbitral tribunal to be part of the Philippines’s exclusive economic zone and continental shelf,” Blinken said. “The PRC and the Philippines, pursuant to their treaty obligations under the Law of the Sea Convention, are legally bound to comply with this decision.”

In 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration at the Hague degreed Chinese military activity in the South China Sea was illegal, saying that the CCP lacked evidence to prove exclusive control over the region. 

“The tribunal concluded that there was no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to resources within the sea areas falling within the ‘nine-dash line,'” the ruling said according to The Guardian

Multiple factors have undermined the CCP’s relationship with the United States including the CCP Virus pandemic, human rights abuses, trade, and Chinese policy in both Hong Kong and Tibet.