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Australian, US, Filipino militaries practice retaking an island in a drill along the South China Sea

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MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Australian and Filipino forces, backed by U.S. Marines, practiced
retaking an island seized by hostile forces in a large military drill Friday on the northwestern
Philippine coast facing the disputed South China Sea.
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and visiting Australian Defense Minister Richard Marles watched the
mock beach landings, assaults and helicopter insertion of forces on a Philippine navy base with 1,200
Australians, 560 Filipinos and 120 U.S. Marines participating.
The three countries are among the most vocal critics of China’s increasingly aggressive and
confrontational actions in the disputed waters, but the Philippine military said Beijing was not an
imaginary target of the combat drills, which were the largest so far between Australia and the
Philippines summons Chinese ambassador over water cannon incident in disputed South China Sea
“It’s is an important aspect of how we prepare for any eventuality and considering that there have
been so many events that attest to the volatility of the region,” Marcos said in a news conference
after the combat drills.
Marles said in a separate news conference with his Philippine counterpart, Gilberto Teodoro Jr., that
the military drills were aimed at promoting the rule of law and peace in the region.
“The message that we want to convey to the region and to the world from an exercise of this kind is
that we are two countries committed to the global rules-based order,” Marles said.
“Peace is maintained through the protection of the global rules-based order and its functionality
around the world and, in truth, around the world today, we see it under pressure,” Marles said.
After meeting on the sidelines of the combat drills, Marles and Teodoro said in a joint statement
that they would pursue plans for joint patrols in the South China Sea. “We committed to expanding
some of our bilateral activities in the future to include other countries committed to sustaining
peace and security in our region,” the two said.
They reaffirmed support for a 2016 ruling by an arbitration tribunal in The Hague under the U.N.
Convention on the Law of the Sea that largely invalidated China’s claim to virtually the entire South
China Sea and upheld the Philippines’ control over resources in a 200-nautical-mile exclusive
economic zone.
China refused to participate in the arbitration and continues to defy the ruling.
In the latest flareups in the disputes, a Chinese coast guard ship used a water cannon on Aug. 5 to
try to block a Philippine supply run at Second Thomas Shoal, where Filipino troops are stationed.
Australia and the US expressed strong support to the Philippines and raised strong concerns over the
Chinese coast guard ships’ actions. Washington renewed a warning that it’s obligated to defend the
Philippines, its oldest treaty ally in Asia, if Filipino forces, ships and aircraft come under attack,
including in the South China Sea.
Two Philippine supply boats managed to pass the Chinese blockade Tuesday in a tense confrontation
witnessed by journalists, including two from The Associated Press.
China has warned the U.S. from meddling in what it says is a purely Asian dispute. Washington has
said it would continue deploying patrolling the disputed waters to promote freedom of navigation
and overflight.
Aside from the China and the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have overlapping
territorial claims in the waterway, a potential Asian flashpoint which has also become a delicate
front in the US-China rivalry.

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