Philippines and Japan hold historic naval drills in flashpoint waters
Two Japanese destroyers and one of the Philippines’ newest warships began historic naval exercises in the flashpoint South China Sea on Tuesday, showcasing a deepening alliance aimed at countering a rising China.
The day-long war games, the first bilateral naval exercises between the former World War II enemies, took place less than 300 kilometres (186 miles) from a Philippine-claimed shoal now under Chinese control.
Philippine authorities insisted the exercises were merely focused on building military capabilities, but security analysts said they were clearly a signal to China over bitter maritime territorial disputes.
“First they demonstrate that China’s Pacific neighbours are beginning to balance against China,” professor Michael Tkacik, a foreign policy expert at the Texas-based Stephen F. Austin State University, told AFP.
“Japan, the Philippines, Vietnam, and assorted other states are threatened by China’s behaviour, even as far away as India. Thus, the Philippines and Japan are jointly making an important statement about how seriously they view China’s actions.”
China has caused deep concern regionally in recent years as it has become more aggressive in staking its claims to the South China Sea and Japanese-claimed islands in the East China Sea.
China insists it has sovereign rights to nearly all of the South China Sea.
However the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei have competing claims to parts of the sea, which is vital to the global shipping industry and is believed to contain huge deposits of fossil fuels.
In 2012, China took control of Scarborough Shoal, a rich fishing ground within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone and more than 650 kilometres from the nearest major Chinese landmass.
Chinese coastguard vessels have since guarded the shoal and denied Filipino fishermen access, triggering a series of protests from the Philippines that have been brushed aside in Beijing.
Although the Philippine Navy declined to say exactly where Tuesday’s exercises took place, it …read more
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