Australia and the Philippines are exploring the possibility of joint patrols in the disputed South China Sea, where recent “aggressive activity” by the Chinese coast guard against a Philippine vessel has prompted Beijing’s envoy to be recalled to Manila by Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
Australian Defense Minister Richard Marless said on Wednesday that he had discussed the joint patrols with Philippine Defense Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr.
“As countries committed to the rules-based global order, it is only natural that we think of ways to cooperate in this regard,” Marlies said at a news conference at the Philippine Department of National Defense in Quezon City.
“We talked today about the possibility of exploring joint patrols, and we will continue this work, and we hope it will bear fruit soon,” he said.
The possibility of joint Philippine-Australian patrols in the South China Sea follows similar talks between Manila and Washington, and in the context of China’s aggressive approach to asserting its vast territorial claims in the disputed sea.
Marlies said the Philippines and Australia were discussing the possibility of joint patrols in the South China Sea.
– PTVph (PTVph) February 22, 2023
Jay Tarella, a Philippine Coast Guard spokesperson on South China Sea issues, told CNN Philippines on Monday that talks with the United States have moved beyond the initial stage and that the possibility of joint patrols is high.
Tarella did not give details on the size or timing of the proposed patrols, which come after the Pentagon said this month that the United States and the Philippines “agreed to resume joint naval patrols at sea from southern China.”
“There is already a clear avenue of possibility because the US Department of Defense has also supported the joint patrol with the Philippine Navy and the US Navy, so there is certainty for these special joint patrols between the coast guards of the two countries,” Tarella said.
The idea of deploying the Philippine and US Coast Guards to the South China Sea instead of the Navy would “mitigate any miscalculations and prevent China from finding an excuse to escalate tensions” in the chasm, said Rommel Jude Ong, a former deputy commander of the US Navy. The Philippine Navy told Reuters news agency on Monday.
Earlier this month, Manila accused the Chinese coast guard of pointing a “military-grade laser” at one of its coast guard vessels that was supporting a troop supply mission on an atoll in the South China Sea.
Manila criticized what it described as China’s “aggressive activities” in the South China Sea, and President Marcos Jr. summoned the Chinese ambassador to express “grave concern” about the ship’s harassment of security guards, and the Philippine coasts. The incident prompted expressions of concern from other countries, including Japan, Australia and the United States.
China refuted the Philippine version of the incident and said it did not reflect the truth. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said last week that the country’s coast guard acted in a “professional and disciplined” manner towards the Philippine ship.
A Philippine coast guard plane flew over the South China Sea on Tuesday as part of efforts to reinforce its presence in the disputed waters and protect what it says is its maritime zone.
In a statement, the Philippine Coast Guard said it had seen a Chinese coast guard vessel and dozens of what it suspected were boats operated by Chinese militia around Second Thomas and Sabina Shoals, both located 200 miles (321 km) from the Philippines. . ) internal. economic zone.
The Philippine Coast Guard ordered the suspected Chinese militia to leave, telling them “they are not allowed to loiter or impede these shoals,” according to the statement.
The Chinese Embassy in Manila did not immediately respond to a request for comment.