May 19, 2024

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Beijing announces “combat patrols” in the South China Sea on Sunday

Beijing announces “combat patrols” in the South China Sea on Sunday

China announced Sunday that it would conduct “combat patrols” in the disputed South China Sea on the same day as joint exercises by the Philippines, the United States, Japan and Australia.

“On April 7, the Southern Theater Command of the People's Liberation Army of China organized joint naval and air combat patrols in the South China Sea,” the military said in a statement.

“All military activities that destabilize the situation and create hot spots in the South China Sea are under control,” the statement added, apparently referring to drills by other countries in the same waters.

No details were given as to the nature and exact location of the Chinese maneuvers.

On Saturday, the Philippines, the United States, Japan and Australia announced that they will conduct joint naval and air exercises on Sunday in the Philippines' exclusive economic zone.

The four countries stressed in a joint statement that it would demonstrate the allies' “shared commitment” to “strengthen regional and international cooperation in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific region”.

A trilateral summit between US President Joe Biden, his Philippine counterpart Ferdinand Marcos and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is scheduled for April 11 at the White House.

The naval exercises and summit come after several clashes between Chinese and Philippine ships near the atolls off the Philippines in recent months.

Beijing claims almost the entire South China Sea, including waters and islands near the coasts of many neighboring countries, against a 2016 International Court of Justice ruling.

Senior US officials have repeatedly affirmed America's “ironclad” commitment to defend the Philippines in the South China Sea in the event of an armed attack.

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At the same time, the Philippines and Japan began talks on a defense treaty that would allow each other to station troops in their respective territories. Manila has already reached similar agreements with Australia and the United States.