On Thursday, Ash Carter, U.S. Secretary of Defense, announced that the U.S. is joining patrols with Philippines and Japan in the South China Sea as China increasingly asserts its territorial claims.
U.S. troops and military equipment would be sent on regular rotations because they are not intending to increase its permanent footprint, it’s just an initiative to demonstrate concerns over China’s actions in the region’s disputed waterway by increasing security cooperation with the Philippines. Carter didn’t offer details about where the patrols took place in the South China Sea.
“The things that we’re doing here are part of a pattern that goes back decades. They’re by the invitation of an alliance partner,” Carter said at a news briefing in Manila with Philippine Defence Minister Voltaire Gazmin.
According to the Pentagon, this not the first time the U.S. and the Philippines joint patrol in the South China Sea. It occurred before in March and then earlier this month.
China claims almost the entire South China Sea, which represents about $5 trillion shipped in trade every year and is believed to have huge deposits of oil and gas. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claimed parts of the waters.
In an international arbitration court, Philippines had disputed China’s claims but China refused to recognize the case.
Controversy due the international support
Many nations, led by the U.S., have been speaking in support of the Philippines about the alleged “militarization” of the disputed waters. A call for upholding “the rule of law” has been made by the island nation as a tactic to strengthen the benefits of the global support they’re getting.
According to the director of the Asia Transparency Initiative, Gregory Poling, if the international support keeps growing it will have an impact on China because other nations wouldn’t want to work with China if it’s seen as a bad player in the international system.
“When you add reputational damage to China, when you name and shame, of course… it does not have an immediate effect upon Chinese behavior necessarily but it does undermine China’s long-term interests,” Poling said.
Maritime law professor Jay Batongbacal of the University of the Philippines Institute of International Law Studies, said that even when having other countries to back you up is an effective way to pressure China, is unlikely that China changes its statement in the near future.
On the other hand, the left-wing Bayan (Nation), an umbrella group of Philippine nationalist and anti-U.S. organizations, rejected the U.S.-Philippine deal, in the believing that this movement it’s just an excuse from U.S to win territory and dominate them again.
“Our dispute with China can never be used as a reason to allow another country to violate our sovereignty,” its secretary-general, Renato Reyes, said in a statement.