China is holding military exercises in the disputed South China Sea to coincide with US President Joe Biden’s visits to South Korea and Japan, which are largely aimed at countering the perceived threat from Beijing.
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Mr. Biden arrived in South Korea Friday, the first stop on his maiden voyage to Asia, as President China claims the South China Sea almost in its entirety. The crucial waterway has become a potential focal point for conflict in Asia. The Philippine Coast Guard said it had set up outposts on three islands in the disputed waters.
The Maritime Safety Administration office in the southern island province of Hainan said the exercises began Thursday and would last until Monday.
It said other aircraft and ships are prohibited from entering the area but did not provide further details.
Mr. Biden arrived in South Korea on Friday, the first stop on his first trip to Asia as president.
He would meet new president Yoon Suk-year, a relative newcomer to politics, in person for the first time. The two would visit a Samsung Electronics factory together before a full day of events on Saturday.
China claims the South China Sea almost in its entirety, and the crucial waterway has become a potential focal point for conflict in Asia.
The US does not take a foreign stance on the sovereignty issue but insists on the right to operate freely at sea and often sails warships near militarized Chinese islands in what has been termed “freedom of navigational operations.”
China routinely protests such missions, labeling them deliberate provocations that endanger peace and stability.
It has built airstrips and other military infrastructure atop artificial islands constructed on coral reefs and atolls to support its claim.
Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Taiwan also exercise overlapping claims in the South China Sea.
On Friday, the Philippine Coast Guard said it had established outposts on three islands in the disputed waters, a move likely to be frowned upon by Beijing.
Since the beginning of the month, China’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, has been conducting a mission in the Sea of Japan described by the Defense Ministry as “routine training” aimed at improving performance “consistent with the relevant international law and practice, and not directed at any party”.
Chinese media said that China also flew a pair of long-range H-6 bombers through the area on Wednesday.
While in Japan, Mr. Biden will meet on Tuesday with fellow leaders of the Indo-Pacific strategic alliance known as the Quad, which includes Australia, India, and Japan.
The four countries share concerns about China’s growing regional assertiveness and increasingly capable armed forces.
China’s claims cut through the majority of its neighbors’ claims. (ABC News: Illustration/Jarrod Fankhauser)
China sees the group as part of a US-led effort to stunt its economic and political rise and frustrate its efforts to intimidate self-governing Taiwan into accepting its demand to get Beijing’s rule.
On Wednesday, during a video call with Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi criticized Washington and Tokyo’s negative actions against Beijing.
“What is drawing attention and vigilance is that even before the US leader has left for the meeting, the so-called joint Japan-US anti-China rhetoric is already causing a stir,” Mr. Wang said, according to China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Foreign Affairs. Ministry.
The Philippines established coastguard outposts in disputed sea
Philippine officials said in a statement Friday that the three new coastguard posts on three islands in the hotly contested Spratly archipelago would monitor ship movements and promote security amid mounting maritime tensions with China.
The statement came just days after Philippine President-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr said his country’s ties to China would expand and “shift into high gear” when he came to power.
China has protested new construction in the region, though, in recent years, it has transformed seven disputed reefs into military-guarded island bases.
Coast Guard Admiral Artemio Abu said the island outposts, set up this week, would be manned by coast guard personnel and equipped with radio communications to report incidents.
Admiral Abu did not specify how many personnel would be stationed at the new outposts but said it was the largest deployment in the disputed region.
“Through these command observatories, we are enhancing our capabilities in promoting maritime security, maritime search and rescue, and protection of the marine environment,” he said.
Philippine troops have occupied the three islands for years and are, internationally, West York, Nanshan Islands, and Nor, theist Cay.
Last week, the Coast Guard installed five Philippine-flagged navigation buoys just outside the three islands and near Thitu Island, the largest of the nine islands and islets that Philippine forces have occupied in the Spratlys.
The Philippines considers much of the Spratlys part of the western province of Palawan.
The “sovereign markers” flash at night to guide fishermen and ships and “communicate that said waters nearby are considered special protected zones” where mining and oil exploration are banned to conserve their rich natural resources, it said. Admiral Abu without further elaboration.
China and the Association of South East Asian Nations, including four member states involved in the territorial disputes, have resumed talks this year on a proposed “Code of Conduct”, or a non-aggression pact to prevent armed confrontation in the region.
But the negotiations have been delayed for years, partly due to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020.