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China’s military starts fresh exercise day after US-Philippine patrol ends

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The Philippine Navy said on Thursday that two PLA Navy vessels – a Type 052D guided-missile destroyer and a Type 054A frigate, – had been “shadowing” the joint patrol from a distance. Philippine media reports added that the two ships had failed to respond to five warning messages.

In a post on its official social media accounts, Southern Theatre Command said the PLA has full control of “any military activities that disrupt and create hotspots in the South China Sea” and pledged it would “remain on high alert at all times, resolutely safeguarding national sovereignty, security and maritime rights and interests”.

Tensions between Manila and Beijing over the South China Sea rose significantly last year after several confrontations where Chinese coastguard vessels blocked Philippine efforts to supply troops stationed on the disputed Second Thomas Shoal.

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In November the two countries held a three-day joint naval drill in waters near Taiwan and the South China Sea, which prompted a live-fire training exercise by the PLA in response.

The Philippine military said this week’s joint patrol marked a “significant leap” in their alliance and interoperability.

“Our alliance is stronger than ever, sending a message to the world. We are advancing a rules-based international order and a free and open Indo-Pacific region in the face of regional challenges,” Philippine armed forces chief Romeo Brawner Jnr said on Wednesday.

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Why the South China Sea dispute remains one of the region’s most pressing issues

Why the South China Sea dispute remains one of the region’s most pressing issues

Beijing has condemned the manoeuvres as “provocative military activities” aimed at “flaunting their military might”, adding that they were “detrimental to the management and control of the maritime situation and related disputes”.

“China will continue to resolutely safeguard our own territorial sovereignty and maritime interests,” the Chinese foreign ministry said on Thursday.

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