World War 3: Mike Pompeo said the US will defend the Philippines (Image: GETTY)
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the Philippines “we have your back”, which reaffirmed the defence code that Manila's security chiefs have sought to revise. Speaking during a stopover after a summit with North Korea, Mr Pompeo said a 1951 Philippine-US Mutual Defence Treaty would be adhered to if its ally was a victim of aggression and singled out China as a threat to stability.
He told a news conference in Manila: "China's island-building and military activities in the South China Sea threaten your sovereignty, security and therefore economic livelihood as well as that of the United States,"
"Any armed attack on Philippine forces, aircraft or public vessels in the South China Sea will trigger mutual defence obligations."
The Philippines, China, Vietnam, Taiwan, Brunei and Malaysia have competing claims of sovereignty in the waterway, a conduit for in excess of £2.5trillion ($3.4 trillion) of goods carried annually on commercial vessels.
Pompeo hailed those countries as responsible for ensuring "these incredibly vital sea lanes are open and China does not pose a threat to closing them down”.
He also said allies should be wary of risks of using Chinese technology.
Philippine Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has been seeking a review of the treaty, which was agreed five years after