May 3, 2024 Special Dispatch No. 11309

Chinese Media Outlet Xinhua: 'The South China Sea Has Become The Battleground Of Big Power Rivalry Under The U.S. Indo-Pacific Strategy'

May 3, 2024
China | Special Dispatch No. 11309

On April 22, 2024, Chinese media outlet Xinhua published an article, titled "Destabilizing South China Sea Is U.S. Strategic Objective," by Koh King Kee, the president of the Centre for New Inclusive Asia, a non-government Malaysian think tank. In the article, Koh King Kee analyzes the heating up of the tensions in the South China Sea and stresses that the area has become the battleground of "big power rivalry under the U.S. Indo-Pacific strategy."

The Philippines and the U.S. began on April 22 three weeks of military exercises that will end on May 10. The annual "Balikatan" or "shoulder-to-shoulder" drills involve 16,700 soldiers, training in maritime security, air and missile defense, dynamic missile strikes, cyber defense, and information operations.

Philippine media outlet Iteraksyon reported: "Philippine and U.S. forces will simulate retaking enemy-occupied islands during joint military drills starting next week in areas facing Taiwan and the South China Sea as Manila shifts its focus to external defense... Aimed at improving interoperability between the two militaries, the drills come against the backdrop of China's recent aggressive behavior in the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait, flashpoints for Chinese and U.S. tensions. In response to the planned drills, China's foreign ministry warned that the Philippines should be 'sober enough to realize' that bringing in extra-territorial countries to show off their force in the South China Sea and provoke confrontation will only aggravate tensions and undermine regional stability."[1] It was also reported that the French Navy has joined the annual war games between the Philippines and the U.S.[2]

Meanwhile, On May 2, the Philippines' Department of Foreign Affairs announced that it had summoned Zhou Zhiyong, the second highest ranking official at the Chinese Embassy in Manila, over the latest "harassment of Philippine vessels" in the South China Sea on April 30. "The Philippines protested the harassment, ramming, swarming, shadowing, and blocking, dangerous maneuvers, use of water cannons, and other aggressive actions of the China Coast Guard and Chinese Maritime Militia vessels against the vessels of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) en route to Bajo de Masinloc [also known as Scarborough Shoal]," said DFA spokesperson Teresita Daza in a statement ."China's aggressive actions, particularly its water cannon use, caused damage to vessels of PCG and BFAR," she then added. It is worth noting that the Philippines government said that, along with firing water cannons, China had installed a 380-meter floating barrier covering the entrance of Scarborough shoal. [3]

The China Coast Guard using a water cannon against a Philippine vessel on April 30, 2024.

Below is Koh King Kee's article in Xinhua:[4]

"Tensions are heating up in the South China Sea as the standoff between Chinese and Philippine Coast Guards at Ren'ai Jiao [Ayungin Shoal] continues.[5]

At the end of August 2023, China published a new South China Sea map that sparked outrage and concern, as it featured a 10-dash line claim to the South China Sea. Thus, it is extending its territorial claims far beyond its recognized Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). (Source: Japan Forward)

A Philippine civilian vessel on a supply mission for troops stationed at BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal is blasted with a water cannon by a Chinese coast guard vessel on March 5, 2024. (Photo courtesy of Armed Forces of the Philippines).

"Most notably, the U.S. Army has recently deployed its new Typhon mid-range ground-based missile launcher to Luzon, the Philippines. This marked the first deployment of such a missile system by the United States following its withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in 2019.

The U.S. Army's Mid-Range Capability (MRC) Launcher in northern Luzon, Philippines on April 8, 2024. (Source: US Army Pacific)

"The deployment coincided with the first-ever U.S.-Japan-Philippines summit among U.S. President Joe Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, and Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in Washington on April 11.[6]

U.S. President Joe Biden escorts Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Japan Prime Minister Fumio Kishida to their trilateral summit at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 11, 2024.

"According to one senior U.S. official, the security issue in the South China Sea is a 'pillar' of the discussions during the summit. Biden began the meeting by reiterating that 'the U.S. defense commitments to Japan and the Philippines are ironclad,' and affirmed that the Mutual Defense Treaty would be invoked in response to any attack on Philippine aircraft, vessels, or armed forces in the South China Sea.[7]

"In fact, many political analysts view the Philippines' decision to invite Washington into the fray, including allowing U.S. access to naval bases located at China's doorstep, as posing a potential threat to China's national security and sovereignty.

"The Philippines is unlikely to receive support from other ASEAN member states in the event of a U.S.-backed conflict with China over the Ren'ai Jiao dispute. ASEAN countries are likely to maintain their stance of neutrality and refrain from taking sides between China and the United States.

"The South China Sea has become the battleground of big power rivalry under the U.S. Indo-Pacific Strategy, which is tailored to constrain and contain China. The United States is now seeking to revitalize the First Island Chain to encircle China through solidifying its relationships with regional allies.

(Source: X)

"In April 2023, the Philippines granted the United States access to four new military bases under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, including the Naval Base Camilo Osias in Santa Ana, Cagayan, located at the northern tip of Luzon Island, approximately 500 km from Taiwan's Kaohsiung Port.[8] Furthermore, the United States is also funding the development of a port in Batanes, which is less than 200 km from Taiwan.

"On April 7, 2024, the Philippines, along with the United States and its two other treaty allies, Japan and Australia, conducted their first joint naval exercise, including anti-submarine warfare training, to demonstrate their collective commitment to strengthen regional and international cooperation in support of a 'free and open Indo-Pacific,' and upholding 'freedom of navigation and overflight.'

Vessels from Australia, Japan, the Philippines, and the United States sail in formation during a joint maritime exercise in the South China Sea on April 7, 2024. (Source: Australian government)

"China conducted an air and sea combat patrol in the South China Sea to counter the quartet's drill, viewing such military activities as potential threats to the peace and security of the region.

"Biden hosted a trilateral Camp David Summit with the leaders of Japan and South Korea on August 18, 2023, institutionalizing cooperation mechanisms among these allies. This trilateral framework not only strengthens defense cooperation in Northeast Asia but also has profound implications for stability and peace in the South China Sea. Japan, as a loyal U.S. ally, is now acting as a surrogate for the United States in Asia, actively implementing U.S. strategic goals to further U.S. geopolitical interests.

"The United States views China as a 'pacing challenge' and the most consequential strategic competitor for the coming decades. However, Washington acknowledges that it cannot rely on China to alter its current trajectory. Therefore, the United States aims to proactively shape the strategic environment surrounding China to advance its geopolitical interests and objectives. Destabilizing the South China Sea is a key strategic objective in this regard.

"Marcos' confrontational approach in handling the South China Sea dispute aligns closely with the U.S. strategy of containing China. Whether intentionally or not, Marcos is allowing the Philippines to become a U.S. proxy in the rivalry with China, which could have serious consequences affecting the national interests of the Philippines."


[1], April 18, 2024.

[2], April 26, 2024.

[3], May 2, 2024.

[4], April 22, 2024.

[8], April 3, 2023.

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