BEIJING — A look at recent developments in the South China Sea, where China is pitted against smaller neighbours in multiple disputes over islands, coral reefs and lagoons in waters crucial for global commerce and rich in fish and potential oil and gas reserves:
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a weekly look at developments in the South China Sea, the location of several territorial conflicts in the region.
TAIWAN PROTESTS CHINESE MILITARY AIRCRAFT CROSSING TAIWAN STRAIT CENTER LINE
Taiwan says its planes warned off Chinese military aircraft that crossed the centre line in the Taiwan Strait, calling China’s move a provocation that seeks to alter the status quo in the waterway dividing the island from mainland China.
Taiwan’s defence ministry said a pair of Chinese J-11 jet fighters crossed the line around 11 a.m. Sunday and entered the island’s southwestern airspace. It said Taiwan scrambled jets to warn off the Chinese planes, which came within about 185 kilometres (115 miles) of Taiwan.
“Yesterday, Chinese military aircraft provoked us by violating the tacit agreement by crossing the median line of the Taiwan Strait. They backed to the west side of the median line after warnings by our Air Force,” Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen told reporters.
Foreign Ministry Joseph Wu said the line crossing was intentional, calling it a provocative and dangerous. He said Taiwan had informed “regional partners” about the incident.
About 160 kilometres (100 miles) wide at its narrowest, the Taiwan Strait opens at its southern end into the South China Sea, where Taiwan and China have overlapping territorial claims. Since the sides split amid civil war in 1949, China has claimed Taiwan as its own territory to be absorbed by force if necessary.
USS WASP, MARINES ARRIVE IN PHILIPPINES FOR JOINT EXERCISES
The U.S. Navy amphibious assault ship USS Wasp arrived in Subic Bay, the Philippines, Saturday with its complement of Marines and F-35 Lightning II fighter jets in preparation for joint exercises with the Philippines.
The drills known as Exercise Balikatan, meaning “shoulder-to-shoulder” in Tagalog, also feature participation from Australian forces.
“Balikatan is a great opportunity for the Navy, Marine Corps team and our allies from the Republic of the Philippines to learn from one another, and further improve our ability operate together,” Capt. Colby Howard, Wasp’s commanding officer, was quoted as saying in a news release from the 7th Fleet.
This year’s drills will include amphibious operations, live-fire training, urban operations, aviation operations, and counterterrorism response, the news release said. All events will take place on the islands Luzon and Palawan.
“Participating in Balikatan demonstrates their ability to quickly forward deploy in support of an ally should a crisis or natural disaster occur,” the release said.
The Philippines and the U.S. are treaty allies, although the political relationship has frayed as the government of President Rodrigo Duterte courts support from China as a counter to long-standing American influence.
Last month, the Philippine defence secretary said his country’s defence treaty with the U.S. needs to be re-examined, bringing expressions of concern from Washington.
CHINA PLANS FLEET REVIEW TO MARK ANNIVERSARY OF PEOPLE’S LIBERATION ARMY NAVY
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