Australian, Filipino Forces Conduct Joint Exercises Near South China Sea
Australian and Filipino troops conducted joint exercises near the South China Sea amid tensions, as claimed by China. The drills took place at a naval base east of Scarborough Shoal, a fishing ground that China seized from the Philippines in 2012.
The exercises involved 1,200 Australian soldiers and 560 Filipino marines, who simulated retaking an enemy-controlled island.
Australian F-35 fighter jets provided air support, and Australian warships secured the surrounding waters. The drills were hailed as an important example of close cooperation between the two countries.
The joint exercises come after Chinese coast guard vessels fired water cannon and blocked a Philippine resupply mission to Second Thomas Shoal in the South China Sea.
The Philippine Navy had grounded a World War II-era vessel on the shoal in 1999 to check China’s advance in the area.
A second Philippine mission managed to deliver supplies to the outpost, though it was briefly chased and blocked by Chinese vessels.
Australian Defense Minister Richard Marles stated that the joint exercises were part of their commitment to a world where disputes are resolved through international law.
He emphasized the importance of maintaining peace through the protection of the global rules-based order, which he believed was currently under pressure.
Marles and his Filipino counterpart Gilberto Teodoro also expressed their intent to plan bilateral joint patrols in the South China Sea and other areas of mutual interest. They suggested that these expanded activities could involve other countries committed to peace and security in the region.
The Philippines recently hosted a meeting with its fellow members in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China to negotiate a code of conduct in the South China Sea.
China has been deploying hundreds of coast guard, navy, and other vessels to patrol and militarize reefs in the area, despite an international ruling that its claims have no legal basis.
The joint exercises between Australia and the Philippines serve as a demonstration of their commitment to maintaining stability in the region and upholding international law.