Australia, Philippines consider joint patrols in South China Sea

Australia’s defence minister Richard Marles made the announcement after talks with Philippine defence secretary Carlito Galvez Jr.

Australia and the Philippines are exploring the possibility of joint patrols in the disputed South China Sea, where recent “aggressive activities” by the Chinese Coast Guard towards a Philippine vessel saw Beijing’s envoy in Manila summoned by Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

Australian Defence Minister Richard Marles said on Wednesday that he had discussed joint patrolling with Philippine Defence Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr.

“As countries which are committed to the global rules-based order, it is natural that we should think about ways in which we can cooperate in this respect,” Marles said at a news conference at the Philippine Department of National Defense in Quezon City.

“We did talk today about the possibility of exploring joint patrols and we will continue that work and we hope that comes to fruition soon,” he said.

The possibility of the Philippines and Australia holding joint patrols in the South China Sea comes on the heels of similar discussions between Manila and Washington, and amid a backdrop of China’s increasingly muscular approach in pressing its extensive territorial claims in the contested sea.

Jay Tarriela, the Philippine Coast Guard’s spokesperson on South China Sea issues, told CNN Philippines on Monday that talks with the United States have advanced beyond the infancy stage and that the likelihood of carrying out joint patrols was high.

Tarriela did not provide details on the scale or timing of the proposed patrols, which come after the Pentagon said this month the US and the Philippines had “agreed to restart joint maritime patrols in the South China Sea”.

“There is already a clear path of possibility since the Defense Department of the United States has also supported the joint patrol with the Philippine navy and the US navy so there is a certainty for this particular joint patrols to happen between the coast guard of both countries,” Tarriela said.

Rommel Jude Ong, former vice commander of the Philippine Navy, told the Reuters news agency on Monday the idea of a Philippine and US coast guard deployment in the South China Sea instead of the navy will “mitigate any miscalculation and prevent China from finding an excuse to escalate tension” in the waterway.

Earlier this month, Manila accused China’s coast guard of aiming a “military-grade laser” at one of its coast guard vessels that was supporting a resupply mission for troops on an atoll in the South China Sea.

Manila blasted what it said was China’s “aggressive activities” in the South China Sea, and President Marcos Jr summoned the Chinese ambassador to express his “serious concern” over the harassment of the Philippine Coast Guard vessel. The incident prompted expressions of concern from other countries including Japan, Australia and the US.

China has refuted the Philippine account of the incident, which it said did not reflect the truth. China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said last week that his country’s coastguard had acted in a “professional and restrained” manner towards the Philippine ship.

Wang also accused the Philippines and the US of engaging in “pure political drama” in taking a case to the international court of arbitration, which ruled in 2016 that China had no legal basis for its territorial claim to almost the entire South China Sea.

China would not be intimidated by the US, Wang said.

[embedded content]

Source: Thanks