US and Philippine forces conducted joint maneuvers in the disputed South China Sea, during which they sank a decommissioned ship, the Financial Times reported on Wednesday, assessing it as a signal to China, which is arguing with the Philippines over areas of this sea.
The exercise was watched by the president from the observation tower Philippines Ferdinand Marcos Jr., which commentators saw as another sign of his strong support for the Philippine-American alliance in the face of tensions with China. During the Balikatan exercise, Philippine forces and USA They fired on the decommissioned Philippine ship first from HIMARS missile launchers, then from helicopters and guns on land and from naval units. It was eventually sunk by guided bombs dropped by F-16 and F-35 fighters, the Financial Times reported.
The largest joint U.S.-Philippine exercise in more than 30 years was a show of strength amid tensions over China’s growing military activity in the region and its wide-ranging territorial claims, according to the AP news agency.
The U.S. and Philippine authorities recently reached an agreement under which the U.S. military will have access to four additional military bases in the Philippines. Three of them lie on the island of Luzon nearby Taiwanand one in Palawan province close to disputed areas of the South China Sea.
The media assessed that this would allow Washington to “close the arc” of allies surrounding China: from South Korea and Japan in the north to Australia in the south.
East Asia hotspot
The South China Sea is one of East Asia’s potential flashpoints. China claims almost all of this sea as its own territory, which contradicts the claims of Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan to individual areas of the basin.
In 2016, an international tribunal challenged China’s claims, but Beijing did not recognize the ruling.
Main photo source: Reuters