Posted by on November 21, 2023 6:40 pm
Categories: News Washington Examiner

US and Philippines begin joint patrols in response to ‘dire’ pressure from China

Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. speaks at the Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies in Honolulu, Sunday, Nov. 19, 2023. Marcos said the situation in the South China Sea “has become more dire” as China expands its presence in an area where multiple nations have competing territorial claims. (AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy) Audrey McAvoy/AP

US and Philippines begin joint patrols in response to ‘dire’ pressure from China

Joel Gehrke November 21, 05:45 PM November 21, 05:45 PM Video Embed

U.S. forces have begun joint naval patrols with the Philippines in an attempt to forestall China’s consolidation of control over the South China Sea.

“This significant initiative is a testament to our commitment to bolster the interoperability of our military forces in conducting maritime and air patrols,” Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., announced on Tuesday. “I am confident that this collaboration will contribute to a more secure and stable environment for our people.”


Those patrols mark an upgrade in cooperation between the U.S. and the Philippines, following a series of renewed confrontations between the Chinese Coast Guard and Philippine vessels attempting to deliver supplies to a military outpost in the Second Thomas Shoal. That dispute is just one of the flashpoints between the two states, stoking Manila’s anxiety about the Chinese military’s encroachment in the region even as President Joe Biden’s administration affirms that the United States will honor its defense treaty with the Philippines in the event of an attack by China.

“The potential for a crisis is growing,” the American Enterprise Institute senior fellow Zack Cooper told the Washington Examiner. “The U.S. and Chinese vessels and aircraft are going to be operating more closely to one another than they do sometimes, given that the U.S. is having to support Manila more directly. And supporting Manila, in this case, means that there are likely to be challenges from China.”

The three-day patrol will begin around the islands at the northernmost point of the Philippine archipelago, according to local media, in the strait between the Philippines and Taiwan. “It will involve three navy vessels, two FA-50PH and one A-29B Super Tucano from the side of the AFP while the US will send in one Littoral Combat Ship and one P8-A Poseidon maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft,” an Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesman told local press.

The vessels will travel south from those waters towards the disputed area that the Marcos government calls the West Philippine Sea. China’s coast guard ships have instigated collisions with Philippine boats in the area, but Cooper said it “would be very escalatory” for Beijing to repeat that tactic with a U.S. Navy ship.

“I think the purpose of having a P-8 in the air is to be able to publicize that occurrence,” Cooper said. “If they’re intercepting an American ship or American aircraft, in this scenario, so shortly after a [meeting between Biden and Chinese General Secretary Xi Jinping], I think that will demonstrate that these efforts to do crisis management are unlikely to get anywhere.”

China has claimed sovereignty over most of the South China Sea, including vast swathes of waterways that fall within the Philippines’s exclusive economic zone. Beijing has buttressed those claims by building artificial islands large enough to house military personnel and equipment, but Marcos has hardened his government’s policy in response after years of conciliatory gestures from then-President Rodrigo Duterte failed to curtail China’s activity in the area.

“The situation has become more dire than it was before,” Marcos said Monday while traveling in Hawaii, the headquarters of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command. “The PLA has started to show interest … lowly using these atolls [and] shoals] as a basis for building bases. … They are approaching — have come closer and closer to the Philippine coastline — and the nearest one is now around 60 nautical miles from the nearest Philippine coast.”

China acknowledged those “construction activities” but insisted on their propriety. “China’s position and claims concerning the South China Sea issue are solidly grounded in history and the law,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said. “China carrying out construction activities on its own territory is a matter purely within the scope of China’s sovereignty and other countries have no right to point fingers at it.”

An international tribunal ruled in favor of the Philippines in 2016, but China has declared that ruling “null and void.” China has attempted to negotiate a so-called code of conduct with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, but those talks have been hampered by the fact that China’s claims in the South China Sea run contrary to the territorial claims of several ASEAN states, including the Philippines.

“So we’ve taken the initiative to approach those other countries around ASEAN with whom we have existing territorial conflicts,” Marcos said Monday. “And hopefully this will grow further … bilaterally with the different countries around ASEAN whom we have conflicts with, but with whom, I think, we can find a way to maintain the status quo.”


China hastened to note it would ignore any agreement that those neighboring states adopted among themselves. “Formulating a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea is an important task for China and ASEAN countries to implement the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea,” Mao said Monday. “Any departure from the DOC framework and its spirit will be null and void.”

Marcos made a similar point concerning China’s claims. “The Philippines will not give a single square inch of our territory to any foreign power,” he said in Hawaii.

© 2023 Washington Examiner

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