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Philippines ‘stirs up trouble’ in South China Sea by holding patrols with US: China

A Philippine Air Force Black Hawk helicopter lands in Batanes, Philippines on June 29, 2023. (File photo by Reuters)

China has rebuked the Philippines for its unfriendly maneuvers in the South China Sea, saying Manila "stirs up trouble" by holding joint air patrols with “extraterritorial countries".

China’s Southern Theater Command said on Monday that the Philippines had “stirred up trouble” in the South China Sea by conducting a joint air patrol with “extraterritorial countries”, namely, the United States, and then openly hyping it up.

The Chinese command added that it had coordinated with its frontline naval and air forces to closely monitor the Philippines’ joint military maneuvers.

It said, Chinese troops “maintained a high degree of vigilance to resolutely defend national sovereignty.”

An aerial view of a China Coast Guard vessel (upper) and Chinese Coast Guard personnel on a rubber boat at Scarborough Shoal in the disputed South China Sea on February 15, 2024. (Photo by AFP)

In 2023, China’s military says it monitored and drove away a US warship that had illegally entered waters around the South China Sea.

The Chinese military said that the US guided-missile destroyer Milius had illegally intruded into China’s territorial waters.

Despite the escalated tensions with China, the Filipino forces have started rotating vessels in a disputed South China Sea shoal.

On Friday, Manila threatened Beijing saying it would respond to Chinese naval forces' "dangerous" maneuvers.

Philippine’s Coast Guard and Fisheries Bureau “will maintain professionalism in dealing with any unlawful and provocative behavior” by Chinese vessels in Scarborough Shoal, National Security Adviser Eduardo Ano said in a statement released on Friday. The Filipino Coast Guard spokesman, Jay Tarriela, shared Ano's statement on X, formerly Twitter.

Late last year, the Filipino Coast Guard released videos purportedly showing Chinese ships blasting water cannons at Philippine boats. Vessels from the two sides also collided during tense clashes at Second Thomas Shoal, where a handful of Filipino troops were stationed on a grounded warship.

Following the developments, Beijing urged Manila to make the “rational choice” over the maritime tensions, warning that the bilateral relationship “is now at a crossroads.”

China has previously criticized the Philippines over what Beijing described as Manila’s policy shift, which included, reneging on commitments, continuing to provoke and stir trouble at sea, and undermining China’s legal rights.

Meantime, China’s naval drills coincided with a two-day joint maritime exercise by the US and the Philippines in the South China Sea, which involved an American aircraft carrier strike group comprised of a cruiser, two destroyers and multiple combat aircraft led by the USS Carl Vinson, their second round of drills in the contested waters in less than two months.

The Philippines, for its part, deployed four naval vessels, a multi-role helicopter and an anti-submarine helicopter.

The US Navy claimed in a statement that the drills would “enhance our ability to coordinate on maritime domain awareness and other shared security interests.”

According to the Filipinos, the drills took place between the Recto Bank and Scarborough Shoal, where clashes took place in December.

Beijing denounced the drills as “provocative military activities” aimed at “flaunting their military might.”

“We urge relevant countries to stop their irresponsible actions and earnestly respect the efforts of countries in the region to maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea,” said the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin, stressing that such military drills were “detrimental to management and control of the maritime situation and related disputes.

Also, Beijing will “continue to firmly safeguard its territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests,” he insisted.

In the meantime, under Filipino President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., tensions between Manila and Beijing over disputed territories in the South China Sea have escalated, with the Philippines pivoting back to the US, which supports the country in its territorial disputes.

China and the United States have held naval drills in the disputed waters of the South China Sea.

China’s claim of sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea overlaps with the maritime claims of the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei, in addition to, Chinese Taipei.

Also, China has constructed several artificial islands over the past few years in the Spratly archipelago in the South China Sea, which is a marginal sea of the Western Pacific Ocean. The move has drawn harsh criticism from the Philippines and the United States.

The South China Sea is believed to sit atop vast reserves of oil and gas.

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