According to Philippines officials, the United States, Japan, and Australia are scheduled to conduct joint navy drills in the South China Sea this week. The purpose of these drills is to demonstrate the three countries' commitment to upholding the rule of law in the region, following recent acts of Chinese aggression in the disputed waters. Two Filipino security officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, revealed that the joint drills will involve three aircraft and helicopter carriers sailing together as a show of force and conducting joint military exercises.
The United States plans to deploy the USS America, an aircraft carrier, while Japan will send one of its largest warships, the helicopter carrier JS Izumo. The Royal Australian Navy will contribute its HMAS Canberra, which also has helicopter capabilities. The joint drill was reportedly planned several months ago, and the Philippines, although not participating in this week's drills due to logistical limitations, expressed its openness to becoming a participant in the future.
The decision to conduct these joint drills comes after an incident on August 5, when six Chinese coast guard ships and two militia vessels blocked two Philippine navy-chartered civilian boats that were delivering supplies to Philippine forces stationed at the Second Thomas Shoal. One of the supply boats was targeted by a powerful water cannon used by the Chinese coast guard, while the other managed to successfully deliver essential provisions. The U.S., Japan, and Australia were among the countries that expressed support for the Philippines and voiced concerns over China's actions during the tense standoff.
In response to these developments, the White House released a joint statement from the U.S., Japan, and South Korea, condemning China's "dangerous and aggressive behavior" in the South China Sea. The statement emphasized the countries' opposition to any unilateral attempts to alter the status quo in the Indo-Pacific waters and expressed concern over the militarization of reclaimed features, the use of coast guard and maritime militia vessels, coercive activities, and illegal fishing. The statement reaffirmed the countries' commitment to international law, including the freedom of navigation and overflight as outlined in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). It also stressed the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.
The joint drills scheduled for this week aim to demonstrate a united front against Chinese aggression and assert the importance of upholding international law in the South China Sea. The Philippines, despite not participating in the drills, has expressed its determination to defend its interests and uphold the rule of law in the region. The incident earlier this month prompted a renewal of the warning from the United States that it is obligated to defend its treaty ally, the Philippines, in the event of an armed attack in the South China Sea.
In a separate development, satellite photos taken recently suggest that China is constructing an airstrip on Triton Island, a disputed landmass in the South China Sea also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan. This construction activity mirrors similar efforts on seven other artificial islands in the Spratly group, which have been equipped with airstrips, docks, and military systems. China's claim to virtually the entire South China Sea has been a subject of contention, with other nations disputing its assertion and an international ruling invalidating its claim.
themes: Military China