MANILA, Nov 26 – Two Chinese warplanes „circulated” a Philippine aircraft on patrol with Australia in the South China Sea, Manila said on Sunday, but no incident was reported.
The militaries of the Philippines and Australia held a second day of naval and air exercises in the Southeast Asian country’s exclusive economic zone, days after Manila began joint patrols with the United States, as Pacific nations warily watch an increasingly assertive China.
China claims almost the entire South China Sea, including areas claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei, a route for more than $3 trillion in annual shipping trade. In 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled that China’s claims had no legal basis.
The Philippines has been making efforts to counter what it describes as China’s „aggressive activities” in the South China Sea, which has also become a flashpoint for Sino-US tensions over naval activities.
China has accused the Philippines of stirring up trouble by engaging „foreign forces” to patrol the South China Sea.
„Information confirmed that two Chinese fighter jets have been observed circling the Philippines’ A-29B Super Tucano near Hubo Reef in the West Philippine Sea,” Philippine Army Public Affairs Office chief Xerxes Trinidad said.
The West Philippine Sea is Manila’s term for waters in the South China Sea that fall within its exclusive economic zone.
The Chinese plane continued on its flight path without further incident, Trinidad said.
Philippine military chief Romeo Browner said the nation has the right to conduct joint patrols with allies to promote a „rules-based international order.”
Two Philippine Navy ships and five Philippine surveillance aircraft and Australia’s frigate Toowoomba and P8-A maritime surveillance aircraft participated in the joint exercise.
Reporting by Karen Lema; Editing: William Mallard
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