Heads of Defense From Australia, US, Philippines and Japan to Deepen Ties

The United States has taken a firm stance against China’s building and fortification of South China Sea outposts and artificial islands because it violates international law and endangers free movement in the waterway.

Concerned about China’s actions in the South China Sea, defense chiefs from the United States, Australia, Japan, and the Philippines met for the second time in Hawaii last Thursday, May 3rd, and pledged to enhance their collaboration.

The gathering followed last month’s combined naval drills by the four nations in the South China Sea, a key maritime route where China has disagreements over territory with many nations in the area where China’s recent aggressive behavior has generated concern.

Following their meeting, Defence Minister Richard Marles of Australia said the military chiefs discussed speeding up their defense drills.

Marles said at the joint press conference that the meetings sent a powerful message to the world and the region about the four democracies’ commitment to the global rules-based order.

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin informed reporters at a press conference that the exercises had improved the countries’ capacity to cooperate, developed ties between their armies, and shown their shared commitment to upholding international law in the waterway.

The US has promised to protect Filipino soldiers, ships, and planes against any military aggression in the South China Sea, as per its long-standing defense accords with the country, as well as with Japan and Australia.

While the US does not officially claim any territory in the South China Sea, it has challenged China’s claims to the entire waterway via freedom of passage operations using fighter jets and Navy ships. In the event that Filipino soldiers, ships, or planes are attacked, the United States has issued repeated warnings that it must protect the Philippines, even in the South China Sea.

The resource-rich waterway has been claimed by many nations, including Brunei, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Taiwan. China has maintained its position of historical non-recognition over an international arbitration decision that invalidated its sweeping claims in 2016. Fears of a bigger war have been heightened by high-seas conflicts between China and the Philippines.

According to China, U.S. efforts to forge closer ties in Asia are an attempt to control China and endanger peace in the area.