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Chinese aggression ramps up in the South China Sea

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In 2023, the South China Sea witnessed an alarming surge in Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) and maritime militia activities, igniting heightened maritime tensions, notably around the Philippines.This escalation spurred the Philippine government to fortify defense collaboration with the United States and its allies.

Chinese authorities directed their forces to adopt a notably more aggressive stance toward Western militaries, as observed by US Pacific Fleet Commander Admiral Samuel Paparo and Acting Deputy Secretary of Defense Mara Karlin. The Philippine-China friction intensified, particularly around Second Thomas Shoal, with physical confrontations escalating during routine missions.

In response, the Philippines under President Ferdinand Marcos Jr initiated a transparency campaign to expose Chinese intimidation tactics in real-time. The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) bolstered patrols to safeguard Filipino interests, triggering rebuttals from China, citing sovereignty violations.

Second Thomas Shoal emerged as a flashpoint, witnessing confrontations where Chinese vessels obstructed Philippine resupply missions. In aggressive encounters, Chinese vessels resorted to water cannons and ramming tactics, impeding Philippine operations.

The Marcos administration fortified defense ties with the US, granting rotational access to additional bases and hosting large-scale joint exercises. Bilateral engagements extended to Australia and Japan, with trilateral drills reinforcing regional security.

Efforts to forge a Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea under Indonesia's leadership encountered slow progress, prompting Marcos to explore alternative COC negotiations with regional stakeholders.

In summary, the Philippines responded assertively to Chinese aggression through enhanced patrols and robust defense cooperation with allies, aiming to deter further escalations in the West Philippine Sea. The trajectory of tensions in 2024 hinges on Philippine actions and the pace of regional COC negotiations.

Metis Insights: Taiwan Strait


Source: East Asia Forum