South China Sea has been becoming an increasingly disputed region especially since the West has started challenging China on its claims. Now other claimants like the Philippines are seemingly stepping up their game by reportedly cooperating with other allies and even leasing fighter jets. Will a war ensue?
A trilateral cooperation is in tow between the Philippines, United States and Japan in light of the South China Sea tensions, according to a senior U.S. official. US 7th Fleet Commander Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin met with the Philippine Navy and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF). The official also said (via The Manila Bulletin) that “the peace and stability in this region really depends on the unified efforts of our countries.” This did not register well with China.
According to Beijing, it will not allow other counties to infringe on such area especially in relation to sovereign terms. China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that while there is freedom of navigation in the region, it does not mean that any country will have the right to do whatever it wants in the area. This was an apparent reference to the United States which sent warships for routine operations to the South China Sea. “The South China Sea has been subject to colonial invasion and illegal occupation and now some people are trying to stir up waves, while some others are showing off forces,” Al Jazeera quoted Wang. “However, like the tide that comes and goes, none of these attempts will have any impact. History will prove who is merely the guest and who is the real host.”
The Philippines clarified that it will play a role in the trilateral drills near the South China Sea. “The reported joint naval exercises near the South China Sea, however, does not involve the Philippines in any way. It will, thus, be speculative on its possible impact to the concerns regarding the South China Sea,” The Diplomat quoted presidential communications secretary Herminio Coloma Jr.
Nonetheless, this does not mean that the Philippines is standing idly as tensions rise in the disputed region. The country will reportedly be leasing four planes from Japan to patrol the sea. President Benigno Aquino announced just Wednesday that the country will be expanding its military presence in the South China Sea. Consequently, the Philippine military has also been refocusing its attention including allocating more to territorial defense totaling 83 billion pesos until 2017.
“All this new equipment will enhance the capability of the air force to guard our territory,” Channel News Asia quoted Aquino.
“We are also leasing from Japan five TC-90 training aircraft to assist our navy in patrolling our territories, particularly in the West Philippine Sea.”