More joint patrols in South China Sea–US nat’l security adviser

Expect more joint patrols in South China Sea–US nat’l security adviser

By: - Reporter / @NCorralesINQ
05:32 AM April 11, 2024

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan speaks during the daily press briefing in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on April 9, 2024. AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

WASHINGTON, DC — The Philippines, United States, Japan and Australia will conduct more military patrols in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) after their first-ever joint maritime drills involving warships from the four nations in the resource-rich waterway on April 7, according to a senior US security official.

“On the naval patrols, we just saw trilateral plus Australia, a new form of quadrilateral joint naval patrols last week, so you can expect to see more of that in the future,” US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told a White House press briefing on Wednesday, ahead of US President Joe Biden’s meetings this week with the Japanese and Philippine leaders.


READ: 4-nation naval drills set today: For ‘a free, open Indo-Pacific’


Sullivan also said Washington and its existing Australian and British partners in the AUKUS security pact—a trilateral security partnership for the Indo-Pacific region between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States—would explore possible Japanese involvement in Pillar II of the project, something the summit between Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida would address.

“We’re prepared to work with additional partners beyond the three of us, where they can bring capabilities, and Japan is one of the countries that could very well bring capabilities to that,” Sullivan said.

More navies welcome

In Manila, Commodore Roy Vincent Trinidad, the Philippine Navy spokesperson for the West Philippine Sea, told reporters on Wednesday to “expect an increase in navy-to-navy engagements.”

“The Philippine Navy welcomes all navies willing to partner with us in developing our capabilities and in promoting stability in the West Philippine Sea,” Trinidad said, adding that the latest maritime cooperative activity (MCA) in the waterway “allowed us to test the operational readiness of our surface fleet to operate with our allies and partners from planning, to preparation and to execution.”

Col. Francel Margareth Padilla, the Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesperson, also said on Wednesday that holding another multilateral MCA with allied countries in the coming days was “feasible, provided that all parties approve them at the ministerial level and in alignment with the international rules-based order and international laws.”

“We welcome more like-minded nations to join us in future MCAs,” Padilla told reporters.


‘Very concerned’

Speaking at the Australian policy think tank Lowy Institute on Tuesday, Indo-Pacific Command chief Adm. John Aquilino said he was “very concerned” about what happened to Filipino troops at Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal.

In March this year, seven Philippine Navy personnel were injured in separate water cannon firing incidents by China Coast Guard vessels against Philippine resupply boats on its way to Ayungin in the West Philippine Sea.

“These actions are dangerous, illegal, and they are destabilizing the region,” Aquilino said. “I am very concerned about what’s happening in Second Thomas Shoal.”

He pointed out that Beijing’s “bad behavior” in the South China Sea was a case of “a strong nation” trying to “ impress their will and goals on another nation in the region.”

“If you think about that, it sounds like Russia and Ukraine,” he said. “I am very very concerned about the direction it’s going. So what’s next, and how far are they willing to go in that area?”

READ: China conducts own drills in South China Sea

Rights within EEZ

He said “the illegal claim of everything inside of the self-proclaimed nine- or 10-dash line as Chinese sovereign territorial waters has no basis in international law.”

“So all of the nations in the region have the right to operate and gain the resources that are allowed to them inside their exclusive economic zone (EEZ). The Philippines is no different,” he said.

Beijing claims almost the entire South China Sea, a position invalidated by a 2016 international arbitral ruling that the Asian superpower has repeatedly refused to recognize.

Aquilino also told a US House committee briefing in March that the Philippines could invoke the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) if a sailor or a member of its military is killed in the face of growing Chinese aggression in the West Philippine Sea.

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Under the MDT, the Philippines and the United States agreed to come to each other’s aid in case of an armed attack on a public vessel, troops or an airship. —WITH A REPORT FROM REUTERS


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