South China Sea: First Naval Exercises by USA Japan, Australia, Philippines

Protests in Beijing: “unjustified escalation of tensions in the South China Sea”

Tensions are rising in the South China Sea, where the first joint naval exercise between the navies of the USA, Japan, Australia, and the Philippines will begin Sunday, April 7. This is an open challenge to China, which in March warned foreign countries “against military exercises involving the USA and its allies” in disputed waters, emphasizing that “they will jeopardize both regional and global security,” and China will defend its territorial interests by all available means.

The exercises, as written in a joint statement by the four countries, are aimed at ensuring the “rule of law” and “protecting freedom of navigation and flight” in the waters of the South China Sea. “We support all countries in defending the international order based on the rule of law, which is the foundation of a peaceful and stable Indo-Pacific region,” the statement said. Although the statement never once mentioned China directly, many international observers interpreted the maneuvers as “a warning to Beijing against its territorial claims.”

Meanwhile, Japan announced that exercises in the South China Sea will include specialized anti-submarine warfare training. “Japan believes that the South China Sea issue is directly related to peace and stability in the region and is of legitimate concern to the international community, including Japan, Australia, the Philippines, and the USA,” said Japanese Defense Minister Minoru Kihara, according to whom “Japan opposes any unilateral change of the status quo by force, such attempts, and any actions that increase tensions in the South China Sea.”