China conducts 'combat patrol' in South China Sea amid US-led war games | South China Sea News

China conducts 'combat patrol' in South China Sea amid US-led war games |  South China Sea News

Beijing is conducting sea and air patrols in the disputed waterway, while the United States, Japan, Australia and the Philippines are conducting their first joint exercises.

China has conducted military “combat patrols” in the disputed South China Sea, raising risks in the contested seas on the same day the United States holds its first joint military exercises with the Philippines, Japan and Australia.

Beijing's surprise announcement of a naval exercise on Sunday came a day after the defense ministers of the four countries announced that the Philippines would host joint exercises in the same region on the same day.

The People's Liberation Army's Southern Theater Command in Beijing said it was organizing “joint naval and air combat patrols in the South China Sea.”

“All military activities that confuse the situation in the South China Sea and create hotspots are under control,” she said in a statement, in clear criticism of the US-led maneuvers taking place in the same waters.

The Chinese military did not provide further details about its activities in the waterway on Sunday.

The exercises took place days before US President Joe Biden was scheduled to hold the first tripartite summit with the leaders of Japan and the Philippines.

Senior US officials have repeatedly declared the US's “firm” commitment to defending the Philippines against any armed attack in the South China Sea – much to Beijing's consternation.

Trading charges

China claims territorial sovereignty over almost all of the South China Sea, and its assertiveness in the region has been increasing in recent years.

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A ruling issued by the Arbitration Court in The Hague in 2016 declared that Beijing's claim was baseless. But Beijing has ignored that ruling as well as the competing territorial claims of the Philippines and other Southeast Asian countries.

A Chinese Coast Guard ship next to a Philippine Bureau of Fisheries ship in an area within the internationally designated 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone in Manila in March 2024. [File: Philippine Coast Guard/Handout via AFP]

On Saturday, the Chinese Coast Guard exchanged accusations with the Philippines. It said it had “addressed” the situation that occurred on Thursday at Iroquois Reef, where several ships from the Philippines were involved in “illegal” operations.

“Under the guise of protecting fishing, the Philippine government’s vessels illegally violated and provoked the organized media to deliberately incite and mislead, and continue to undermine stability in the South China Sea,” spokesman Jan Yu said.

“We are telling the Philippines that any violation tactics will be in vain,” Gan said, adding that China “will regularly enforce the law in underwater waters.” [its] Jurisdiction”.

The Philippines insists that the area, under international law, falls within its 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone. Philippine Coast Guard spokesman Jay Tarella also accused China of conducting “unlawful enforcement operations.”

The joint exercises, hosted by the Philippines on Sunday, aim to “[ensure] “All nations are free to fly, sail and operate anywhere permitted by international law,” US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a joint statement.

The joint statement stated that the exercises, called “Maritime Cooperative Activity,” will include naval and air units from the four countries.

The exercises will also include anti-submarine warfare training to protect “the rule of law that is the foundation of a peaceful and stable Indo-Pacific region,” reports said.

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