The US Navy has conducted its first major freedom of navigation operation (FONOP) in the South China Sea in 2023 with the deployment of the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Milius (DDG 69) close to the China-occupied Paracel Islands.

Back in November, the Pentagon deployed the US guided missile cruiser USS  Chancellorsville (CG-62) to the western contested Spratly group of islands.

The US Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM)  characterized its latest deployment as part of broader efforts to challenge China’s unlawful and sweeping maritime claims in the South China Sea, which it claims pose a serious threat to the freedom of the seas.

Including American style freedoms of navigation and overflight, free trade and unimpeded commerce, and freedom of economic opportunity for South China Sea littoral nations.

In recent years, both the Trump and Biden administrations have conducted FONOPs at least once every quarter, deploying US warships well within the 12 nautical miles of Chinese-claimed islands in the disputed waters.

Meanwhile, the USA is also preparing to host the new Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr at the White House while the two treaty allies are expected to conduct their first 2-plus-2 meeting in seven years in April 2023 amid booming defense cooperation.

Marcos Jr green-lighted expanded American access to a host of strategic military bases across the Philippines, including those close to Taiwan’s southern shores and the Western portions of the South China Sea.

The US regime is also set to host this month top national security officials from Japan and the Philippines to fortify a new trilateral alliance, known as the Japan-Philippine-USA (JAHUS), amid growing fears of potential Chinese kinetic action against Taiwan.

Over the past decade, the USA has steadily expanded its strategic presence in the Indo-Pacific in response to China’s large-scale island-building project in the South China Sea.

Richard Marles. STORY: Aussie envoy confirms joint patrol talks with PH, US, Japan

Both Japan and the Philippines have naval bases extremely close to Taiwanese shores, making the two USA allies key to preparing for as well as deterring any major conflict over the self-ruling democratic island.

The Philippines is also exploring joint patrols with Australia, Japan and the US in the contested waters. However, more allies in the region, like Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia are hard to find these days.

Over the past decade, the USA has steadily expanded its strategic presence in the Indo-Pacific in response to China’s large-scale island-building project in the South China Sea.

The disputed waters are not only an artery of global trade, hosting trillions of dollars in annual shipments, but several key USA allies and partners also have major interests in the maritime area.

For the Philippines, China’s expansive nine-dash line claims present a direct threat to its sovereignty in the South China Sea, while Japan fears Chinese encirclement of its southernmost islands in Senkaku/Diaoyu and Okinawa.

As for Vietnam, a so-called key USA security partner, the maritime disputes represent an existential challenge, while US strategic partners such as Singapore are worried over disruptions to regional sea lines of communications.

The US guided-missile destroyer USS Milius illegally entered the territorial waters off China’s Xisha Islands once again without the Chinese government’s permission on March 24, undermining peace and stability in the South China Sea.

Despite stern warnings from Beijing, the US Navy’s Seventh Fleet spokeswoman commander Haley Sims insisted, the USA will continue to fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows.

Meanwhile, as many as 12 nuclear-powered submarines and eight US aircraft carrier strike groups and amphibious alert groups entered the area in the same period last year.

The frequency and intensity of the US military activity in the South China Sea are increasing further, and the actions are becoming bolder and more aggressive, with a level of excitement that has long surpassed that of the Donald Trump administration.

Another major point of concern for China is the growing role of Philippine bases in projecting American naval power in the region after the Marcos administration’s recent EDCA decision.

According to the Chinese think tank’s report, US forward bases in the Philippines will play an even more important role in future military operations against the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea.

In 2023, it is foreseeable that, in addition to military operations directly targeting the South China Sea, US military operations against the Taiwan Strait will increasingly become a new variable affecting the stability of the situation in the South China Sea.

China is also increasingly concerned by US-led military drills in the area, which grew to as many as 102 last year. That is the equivalent of every three days on average?

This month, the US and the Philippines are expected to conduct their largest-ever war-games with as many as 17,000 troops, including those from Japan and Australia, attending the annual Balikatan exercises.

They will take place provocatively close to contested islands in the South China Sea.

Recognizing China’s growing defense capabilities, the Pentagon is leveraging its network of regional alliances to constrain the Asian power’s geopolitical ambitions.

In that direction, there will be two-plus-two discussions between USA and Philippine foreign and defense chiefs held this month.

Shortly after, there will likely be a trilateral meeting among White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and his Japanese (Takeo Akiba) and Filipino (Eduardo Ano) counterparts to solidify the emerging JAPHUS, with a particular focus on Taiwan’s defense.

Last year, the three partners hosted a three-day trilateral maritime security dialogue shortly after a high-profile November visit by Philippine Air Force chief Lieutenant General Connor Anthony Canlas to Tokyo in order to finalize new bilateral defense arrangements.

Meanwhile, the Philippines is also exploring joint patrols with Australia, Japan and the USA in the South China Sea.

Meetings have already been set and probably we may have the Japanese and the Australians join in, Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel Romualdez said in an interview last month.

They would like to join in for joint patrols to make sure that there’s the code of conduct and there’s freedom of navigation, underscoring rapidly growing security partnership among the US regional allies.

Asia Times / ABC Flash Point Blog News 2023.

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05-04-23 02:35

Its of no use other than propaganda and military arm-wrestling, knowing that close to home, China has the upper-hand, especially with the hyper-sonic DF-ship destroying missiles on the menu?