China released images on Thursday that supposedly show fighter jets fire missiles in the South China Sea, a disputed maritime area in which the United States and the Philippines also carry out military exercises. China and the Philippines have a long history of disputes in these Southeast Asian waters, whose sovereignty is claimed almost entirely by Beijing and through which a large part of international trade passes.
The Chinese Army also announced two-day maritime patrols in the South China Sea, in response to those being carried out jointly by the United States and the Philippines in the same region. He Southern Theater Command of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Chinese announced last night in a statement that it has organized “naval and air forces” to carry out a “routine patrol” in said sea from Wednesday to Thursday.
“Troops are on high alert to firmly safeguard national sovereignty and our maritime rights and interests. “Any military activity that alters the situation or creates tension in the South China Sea will be completely neutralized,” the statement said. According to Chinese experts cited by the local press, the patrol responds to that carried out by the United States and the Philippines in the same South China Sea. : “Everyone knows who is creating problems in that sea and who is instigating the Philippines to provoke China”military analyst Song Zhongpin tells the Global Times.
In recent weeks, there have been altercations between China and the Philippines in these waters, which Beijing claims almost in its entirety and where territories are also disputed with Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan and Brunei. Last December 10, The Philippines accused the Chinese coast guard of firing a water cannon and ramming its replenishment vessels near Ayungin Atoll. (known as Ren’ai in China), which caused “severe engine damage” to one of the ships. The atoll is located less than 200 nautical miles from the Philippine coast, the limit set by international law to delimit the exclusive economic zone of a country.
The Asian giant alleges historical reasons for claiming sovereignty in the South China Sea, but In 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled in favor of Manila in its complaint against the claims of the Chinese authorities, a decision that China refused to abide by.
The former Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte He was reluctant to criticize his powerful neighbor, but his successor, Ferdinand Marcos Jr, who came to power in 2022, adopted a firmer position towards the Asian giant and approached the United States. In December, the Philippine coast guard released videos showing Chinese vessels firing water cannons at their ships during two supply missions to disputed reefs.
There was also a Collision between a Philippine ship and a Chinese coast guard. Both countries blamed each other for the incident. On Thursday, both the Chinese military and state television broadcast footage they say shows “live firing exercises” in the South China Sea.
“Exhibition of strength”
This Thursday, China released a video showing fighter jets firing missiles at precise targets. The date of the recording was not detailed, but its broadcast takes place the day after Beijing announced “routine patrols” in these waters until Thursday.
The Chinese army did not specify the location of the maneuvers or the number of soldiers or devices mobilized. The last military exercise that Beijing made public in this area dates back to November. In September he made four more. The United States, for its part, announced that it would carry out joint air-naval maneuvers with the Philippines in the disputed waters with the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson.
“The US Navy regularly carries out exercises of this type to strengthen ties between allied and partner nations,” indicates a statement, which specifies that the maneuvers will take place over two days.
A senior official in the Philippine forces, Xerxex Trinidad, told AFP on Thursday that the maneuvers were taking place in the same area where incidents with Chinese ships occurred in December. Beijing described the exercises as a “provocation” and considers them an attack on its territorial integrity.
The maneuvers are carried out “with the objective of displaying their strength and do not serve to control the disputes and the situation” in these disputed waters, reacted Wang Wenbin, a spokesperson for Chinese diplomacy. Beijing claims sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea, despite a contrary ruling by the Netherlands-based Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2016.
“Key defensive zone”
Other neighboring countries, such as The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei also claim sovereignty in the area, where they control several islands. In recent years, China has built artificial islands in the disputed sea and has militarized them to reinforce its claims. “The South China Sea is becoming a key defensive zone for China,” the military analyst told AFP. Michael Raska, professor at Nanyang Technological University (NTU), in Singapore.
Beijing seeks to make this vast maritime area “a navigable waterway controlled solely by China,” in order to strengthen its influence and projection capacity, he added. Faced with Chinese territorial claims and its growing influence and military capacity, the Philippines signed military agreements with the United States and Australia this year.