China conducts military combat patrols in South China Sea

China conducted military combat patrols in the disputed South China Sea on Sunday (7th April 2024). Beijing’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Southern Theater Command confirmed that it was organising joint naval and air combat patrols in the area. Joint drills by the Philippines, the United States, Japan and Australia are also taking place today.

The exercises take place days before US President Joe Biden is due to hold the first trilateral summit with the leaders of the Philippines and Japan. Top US officials have repeatedly declared the United States’ commitment to defending the Philippines against an armed attack in the South China Sea.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has said in a joint statement that the drills conducted by the Philippines, US, Japan and Australia are intended to ensure that all countries are free to fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows.

China claims territorial sovereignty over nearly all of the South China Sea and has been increasing assertions in the region in recent years. It has brushed aside competing territorial claims by several Southeast Asian countries despite an international ruling that declared its stance baseless.

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