Australia,Philippines collaborate on military exercises with South China Sea patrols in mind


Australia and the Philippines have jointly conducted military drills and are planning to step up their collaborative efforts through patrols in the disputed waters.

Australian Defence Minister Richard Marles emphasized the strategic interest of Australia in the region and revealed plans for closer cooperation with the Philippines during his recent announcement.

The announcement took place as approximately 2,000 Australian and Philippine defense personnel, alongside United States Marines, participated in amphibious landing and air assault exercises. The exercises were part of a broader joint endeavor that also saw the presence of Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

These joint drills occurred in the backdrop of escalating tensions between Manila and Beijing over the South China Sea territory. The training included troops arriving in amphibious assault vehicles, parachuting, and utilizing US Osprey aircraft to simulate a beachfront assault. To complement the drills, advanced Australian F-35 fighter jets provided close air support, while Australian warships secured the surrounding maritime boundaries.

This groundbreaking series of drills, serving as the first large-scale collaborative exercise between Australia and the Philippines, simulated a scenario of reclaiming control over an enemy-held island. President Marcos underscored the Philippines’ desire for enhanced cooperation with neighboring countries’ militaries, highlighting its importance in preparing for potential contingencies given the region’s volatility.

Minister Marles, following the exercises, confirmed the imminent commencement of joint patrols in the South China Sea by the Australian and Philippine navies. Furthermore, he reiterated support for a 2016 arbitration tribunal ruling from The Hague, which invalidated much of China’s expansive claims over the South China Sea and affirmed the Philippines’ rights to resources in its exclusive economic zone.

Despite China’s refusal to engage in the arbitration process and its persistent assertion of territorial claims, Marles stressed the significance of upholding a rules-based order in Southeast Asia. He emphasized the critical role this plays in safeguarding Australia’s national security and maintaining collective security in the region.

While the United States, Australia, and the Philippines have expressed strong concerns about China’s increasingly assertive actions in the disputed waters, the joint military exercises were not targeted specifically at Beijing, according to the Philippine military. Recent incidents, including a Chinese coast guard ship using a water cannon to obstruct a Philippine supply operation, have further raised tensions in the region.

Australia and the US have both voiced their support for the Philippines and condemned the actions of Chinese coast guard ships. Washington, underscoring its commitment to its oldest treaty ally in Asia, warned of its obligation to defend the Philippines in the event of any hostile actions, including those occurring in the South China Sea.

In a tense confrontation witnessed by journalists, two Philippine supply boats successfully navigated through a Chinese blockade. China, however, cautioned the US against intervening in

what it perceives as an exclusively Asian dispute. Multiple nations, including the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei, and Taiwan, have competing claims over different parts of the South China Sea, contributing to the complex geopolitical dynamics in the region.

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