Philippine’s officials confirm US, Japan and Australia joint navy drills in South China Sea

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USS Chosin (CG-65) Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser and Royal Australian Navy Anzac-class frigate HMAS Parramatta sailing at sea.

Two Filipino security officials confirmed anonymously that the United States, Japan, and Australia are preparing for a joint naval exercise in the South China Sea, off the western coast of the Philippines, in an effort to emphasize their commitment to upholding regional law. This decision comes in the wake of recent Chinese provocations in the disputed waters, where Chinese coast guard vessels used water cannons against Filipino vessels on August 5th. These contested waters have long been a potential hotspot for conflicts and have become a focal point in the competition between the United States and China in the region.

The planned drill will involve three aircraft and helicopter carriers sailing together to demonstrate their collective strength and engage in joint training exercises. Following these offshore manoeuvres, the commanders of these vessels will convene with their Filipino counterparts in Manila for discussions regarding the security situation in the area.

The upcoming joint naval exercise will involve significant participation from the U.S., Japan and Australia. The U.S. has scheduled the deployment of the USS America aircraft carrier, while Japan plans to send the JS Izumo, one of its largest warships equipped with helicopters. Additionally, the Royal Australian Navy is set to contribute its HMAS Canberra, which is also equipped with helicopters. This coordinated drill, organized a few months in advance, reflects the combined efforts of these nations.

After a tense encounter earlier this month, several countries, including the United States, Japan, and Australia, demonstrated their support for the Philippines while expressing concerns about China’s actions. In that incident, Philippine officials reported that six Chinese coast guard vessels and two militia ships obstructed two civilian boats chartered by the Philippine navy, tasked with delivering supplies to forces stationed at the Second Thomas Shoal. During the altercation, one of the supply boats was targeted by a water cannon from the Chinese coast guard. However, the other boat successfully managed to transport essential provisions, such as food, water, and fuel, to the Filipino personnel stationed at the atol.

In response, the Chinese coast guard acknowledged their use of water cannons against the Philippine vessels, stating that the vessels had entered the shoal – referred to as Ren’ai Jiao by Beijing – without authorization. The Chinese coast guard defended its actions, asserting that water cannons were employed as a warning to prevent direct obstruction and collisions. They described their on-site actions as professional and restrained, highlighting their commitment to protecting territorial sovereignty.

The Philippine military announced its intention to make another attempt to deliver basic supplies to the Second Thomas Shoal, although specific details were not provided. This mission is seen as a strong demonstration of the Philippines’ determination to counter threats and coercion and uphold the principles of the rule of law, as emphasized in a statement by the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

In response to the incident, the U.S. reiterated its support for Philippines, its long-standing ally, warning that it is obligated to defend the Philippines in the event of armed attacks against its public vessels and forces, including incidents within the South China Sea.

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