Japan, the US, and Australia have been planning a joint navy drill off the western Philippines in the South China Sea to underscore its commitment to the rule of law in the area following a recent display of China’s aggression in the disputed waters, per Filipino security officials on Sunday.
On 5 August, China’s coast guard vessels were using water cannons against the Philippine ships in the contested waterway, where the disputes have long been regarded as a probable flashpoint and have also become a fault line in the rivalry between China and the US in the region.
The drill will include helicopter carriers and three aircraft sailing in a display of force and taking on joint drills.
The commanders are all set to meet up with the Filipino counterparts in Manila following the offshore drills, per the two Philippine security officials’ report to The Associated Press.
The U.S. plans to deploy an aircraft carrier dubbed the USS America, while Japan would send one of the largest warships, a helicopter carrier titled JS Izumo.
The Royal Australian Navy would be sending its HMAS Canberra, which also transports helicopters, one of the two officials mentioned, adding that the joint drill was deliberately planned some months back.
The official said that the Philippines will not be a part of this week’s drills owing to military logistical limitations but will be open to becoming a participant in the future.
The US, Australia, and Japan were among many nations that expressed support immediately for the Philippines and concerns over Chinese actions following the tense stand-off earlier in the month.
Philippine officials mentioned that six coast guard ships from China and two of its militia vessels blocked two navy-chartered civilian vessels of the Philippines, taking supplies to the Philippine forces stationed at the Second Thomas Shoal.
The Chinese coast guard reportedly hit a supply boat with a powerful water cannon. In contrast, the other successfully delivered water, food, fuel, and other supplies to the Filipino forces who guard the shoal, the Philippine military said.
China’s coast guard also acknowledged that its vessels used some water cannons against the Filipino ships that it said had strayed without any permission into the shoal that Beijing refers to as Ren’ai Jiao.
Water cannons were used to send out a warning to avoid direct collisions and blocking when repeated warnings have been ineffective. The on-site operation was professional, restrained, and beyond reproach, per the Chinese coast guard.
It added that China will keep adopting necessary steps to safeguard its territorial sovereignty.
The Philippine military declared on Saturday that it would again try delivering the essential supplies to forces in the Second Thomas Shoal. But, it did not share further details.
The mission to the shoal demonstrates the resolve to stand up against coercion and threats and commitment to upholding the rule of law, the Philippines’ Armed Forces said in a statement.
Soon after the incident, Washington warned that it must defend the longtime treaty ally if the Philippine’s public vessels and forces come under armed attacks, including in the South China Sea.
References: Indian Express News, Firstpost, kcrg.com
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