Australia’s greatest warship will head toward the Philippines on Monday, where recent tensions with Beijing have reportedly escalated over the past few days relating to the disputed South China Sea.
The HMAS Canberra will take part in a joint military exercise with the US forces and the Philippines.
The South China Sea is one of the most crucial waterways in the world. It connects Indian to the Pacific Ocean and is a critical shipping channel with several rich fishing grounds. It could harbour valuable deposits of natural resources.
Neighbouring nations have also contested the region for several years now. China has also claimed large swathes that have further angered competing claimants, including Malaysia, Taiwan, Brunei, and Vietnam. Flashpoints — small and big — are pretty common.
Quite recently, the authorities in the Philippines have accused China of using water cannon against its vessels loaded with supplies for Filipino soldiers on the much-disputed Spratly Islands. The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) mentioned that China’s actions were unlawful and excessive.
China further demanded the removal of that beached vessel the soldiers were living on.
The US usually stays neutral in case of territorial disputes but has also deployed military ships and aircraft close to disputed islands in what it refers to as freedom of navigation operations in the waters of the South China Sea.
On Monday, Australia sent out its greatest warship — HMAS Canberra — to the Philippines to collaborate in exercises with the U.S. and the Filipino forces.
Chief of Navy (Australia), Vice Admiral Mark Hammond, reported to the Australian Broadcasting Corp. on Monday that Canberra wishes to maintain peace and stability in the region.
He said the South China Sea has been a zone of rising tension for years. He added that despite tensions, they continued conducting their activities, operations, and exercises with partners and allies. So, he is not concerned about the deployment any more so than the other deployments that they happen to do.
Australia’s defence and security collaboration with the Philippines dates back over 100 years.
Earlier in 2023, the officials said that Australia and the Philippines had discussed joint patrols in the South China Sea.
In February 2023, China’s coast guard reportedly directed a military-grade laser at the crew members of a Philippine coast guard vessel close to the Second Thomas Shoal.
Beijing insisted that its actions were lawful.
China’s ambitions in the South China Sea, and other geopolitical and trade disputes, have impaired Australia’s relationship with Beijing over recent years.
The current left-leaning government of Canberra, elected in May last year, has aimed to stabilize the bilateral ties. Still, it has been insistent that there would be areas of competition and disagreement.
References: VOA News, ANI, Economic Times
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