Philippine Daily Inquirer

EXPECT MORE JOINT PATROLS IN SOUTH CHINA SEA–US NAT’L SECURITY ADVISER

- By Nestor Corrales @NCorralesI­NQ

The Philippine­s, United States, Japan and Australia will conduct more military patrols in the West Philippine 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.

Sullivan also said Washington and its existing Australian and British partners in the AUKUS security pact—a trilat

eral 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 be

yond 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 “ex

pect 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?”

Rights within EEZ

He said “the illegal claim of everything inside of the self-proclaimed nine- or 10dash 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.

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.

 ?? —AFP ?? SAILING WITH A MESSAGE Photo taken on April 7 and released by the Australian Department of Defense shows the USS Mobile, JS Akebono, HMAS Warramunga, BRP Antonio Luna and BRP Valentine Diaz sailing in formation during a multilater­al maritime cooperativ­e activity between Australia, the United States, Japan and the Philippine­s in waters within the Philippine exclusive economic zone.
—AFP SAILING WITH A MESSAGE Photo taken on April 7 and released by the Australian Department of Defense shows the USS Mobile, JS Akebono, HMAS Warramunga, BRP Antonio Luna and BRP Valentine Diaz sailing in formation during a multilater­al maritime cooperativ­e activity between Australia, the United States, Japan and the Philippine­s in waters within the Philippine exclusive economic zone.
 ?? —AFP ?? Jake Sullivan
—AFP Jake Sullivan
 ?? ?? John Aquilino
John Aquilino

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