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Philippines Plans Joint Naval Drills with US, Japan, and Australia to Counter China’s Influence

Joint naval drills between the Philippines and the US, Japan, and Australia are being planned, two diplomatic sources told AFP on Thursday. The purpose of these exercises is to counterbalance China’s growing influence in the Asia-Pacific area by strengthening military cooperation between the four countries.

This cooperative endeavor is slated for Sunday in the contested South China Sea, an area over which Beijing maintains strong claims. It coincides with US President Joe Biden’s first-ever trilateral summit with the Philippines and Japan.

Sources, speaking anonymously because to the drills’ upcoming public announcement, stated that the Australian warship HMAS Warramunga recently landed at Palawan, a Philippine island province facing the contested waters. According to the Philippine military, the purpose of this visit is to strengthen military connections with allies.

Tensions have increased in the region, with China demanding authority over waterways also claimed by the Philippines, Japan, and Taiwan. As a result, the US is strengthening its alliances, especially those with nations that have been treaty partners for a long time, like Japan and the Philippines.

This strategic convergence is further highlighted by Biden’s impending summit with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos. The summit, which is slated to take place on April 11 at the White House, will feature separate bilateral sessions with Marcos and Kishida. A diplomatic source has hinted that these discussions may result in combined coast guard patrols by the US, Japan, and the Philippines.

The summit and drills come after previous instances of maritime conflicts between China and the Philippines. Amidst the worsening ties between Manila and Beijing under Marcos’s leadership, US officials have reaffirmed their unflinching commitment to protecting the Philippines in the South China Sea.

The Philippines has defied China’s sweeping claims in the region, even in the face of an international verdict that questions their legitimacy. In a firm declaration on March 28, Marcos promised to withstand Chinese coercion and indicated that he would respond to recent provocations in a measured manner.

Parallel to current accords with Australia and the US, talks between the Philippines and Japan are ongoing on a defense deal. Prime Minister Kishida of Japan highlighted Japan’s ability to offer Southeast Asian countries, such as the Philippines, strategic alternatives.

Together, these cooperative military drills and diplomatic initiatives demonstrate the region’s will to counter China’s ambition while preserving stability in the Asia-Pacific area.

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