US, Philippines defense chiefs discuss South China Sea

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin held talks with his Philippine counterpart Gilberto Teodoro Jr. by phone on Thursday. Austin reaffirmed Washington's ironclad commitment to Manila over territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

The Pentagon says Austin underscored the US's continued support for the Philippines in defending its sovereign rights. It says the defense chiefs also discussed the importance of preserving the rights of all nations to operate in the sea, wherever international law allows.

Last week, Chinese coast guards once again interfered with a Philippine resupply mission to a military outpost in the Second Thomas Shoal. A Filipino soldier was severely injured during the confrontation.

Beijing has justified its actions, claiming they were essential to protecting its sovereignty.

Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. also told reporters on Thursday his government has to do more than just file protests against China's aggressive behavior in the disputed waters.

Marcos said, "Although there were no arms involved, nonetheless, it is still a deliberate action and it is essentially an illegal action that was taken by the Chinese forces."

But Marcos didn't mention what the next steps will be. He had said his country should deal with Beijing's increasing assertiveness by seeking a peaceful resolution through dialogue.