Joint naval exercises in the Sea raise tensions for China
Australia and the Philippines have initiated joint sea and air patrols in the South China Sea amid concerns over China’s growing supremacy. These exercises, spanning three days, are a result of prior discussions emphasizing mutual collaboration and adherence to a rules-based order in the region. The move follows Manila’s recent joint patrols with the US near Taiwan.
Richard Marles, Australia’s defense minister, highlighted these patrols as a practical embodiment of the strategic partnership inked between the nations in September. The Australian Defense Force and the Armed Forces of the Philippines are conducting their first maritime cooperative activity, emphasizing their commitment to this crucial alliance.
Termed as patrols in the West Philippine Sea—within Manila’s exclusive economic zone—the Philippine military will engage two navy vessels and five surveillance aircraft. Australia, on its part, will dispatch the frigate HMAS Toowoomba and P8-A maritime surveillance aircraft.
Reinforcement of a rules-based international order
Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. praised these exercises as a reinforcement of a rules-based international order, viewing them as a tangible reflection of the burgeoning strategic and defense ties between the countries. Both nations affirm their dedication to a peaceful, secure, and prosperous region where established norms and sovereignty are respected, as reiterated by Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles.
These joint patrols address rising tensions over territorial claims in the South China Sea, an area contested by multiple nations including the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei. Despite the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s 2016 ruling against China’s claims in this region, China continues to assert dominance, constructing artificial islands and fortifying its presence.
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China’s actions, including recent incidents like a clash between a Chinese coast guard ship and a Philippine fishing vessel, have heightened regional tensions. Australia and the Philippines’ decision to conduct joint patrols is a clear response to these challenges, signaling their commitment to uphold international laws and norms in the face of China’s assertive maneuvers.