It has been reported that the United States and the Philippines staged “side-by-side” joint military exercises on April 4, 2016. What needs paying attention to is the substance of the “drills to seize the islands” — they are clearly intended as provocation.
These kinds of military exercises are part one of a tri-part plan of United States’ activities in the militarization of the South China Sea. In the past few years, the United States has held military exercises either alone or together with other countries; the scale of these exercises has been increasing and the pattern has become more frequent. The region is becoming increasingly more sensitive and more a site of provocation. The Australian military has participated in side-by-side combat drills for the first time, and Japan, not content with merely being an observer, also wishes to participate in these side-by-side military exercises. The deputy-commander of the joint military exercises has revealed that the exercise will comprise a hypothetical situation in which the Philippine military attempts to seize back islands of which foreign militaries have taken control.
Part two of the United States pushing for the militarization of the South China Sea is to dispatch troops, warships, and military aircraft to carry out frequent patrols of the South China Sea. According to the New York Times, a United States naval officer stated that the United States had conducted over 700 patrols of the South China Sea within the past year, almost twice a day — and this cannot be said to be a small amount. This figure, without doubt, also includes October last year when the guided missile destroyer USS Lassen, entered the waters surrounding the Spratly Islands, flexing its muscles in a so-called “freedom of navigation” operation.
Part three of the United States pushing for the militarization of the South China Sea is increasing the military deployments there. Since the United States was forced to withdraw from the Philippines in 1992, there have been successive Visiting Forces Agreements and Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreements in the past few years, and thereby a long-term military presence in the Philippines has been secured along with the deployment of weapons, the rotation of troops stationed and warships in Philippine ports. On March 18, the United States once again obtained permission to use five of the Philippines' military bases. The United States has also deployed coastal defense ships from Singapore since 2013, and has frequently entered the South China Sea to carry out reconnaissance patrols.
It is very clear that the United States’ tri-part militarization of the South China Sea is the principal factor causing the tense situation in the South China Sea.
According to the United States military plans, the tri-part militarization of the South China Sea consists of “military exercises,” “military patrols” and “military deployments”; these will continue to increase in the coming years. It has been reported in the media that these “side-by-side” military exercises are a part of the U.S. plan to “rebalance the South China Sea.” Passage of the Pacific Ocean is part of the United States plan for being “semi-permanently” stationed in Asia, with 29 exercises planned together with 12 countries within the Asia-Pacific region. The United States military is currently planning the third instance in which it will send a warship to scuttle into the South China Sea to carry out so-called “freedom of navigation” exercises. The United States military is trying extremely hard to rope in countries both within and outside of the Asia-Pacific region to participate in these so-called “joint patrols” or “freedom of navigation” exercises.
Both the root and the core of the issue in the South China Sea is the fact that since the 1970s the Philippines and other countries within the coastal regions of the South China Sea have illegally invaded and occupied the Chinese Spratly Island reefs which has led to territorial disputes and disputes over maritime rights. In simultaneously upholding territorial sovereignty and maritime rights, China has always insisted on and has always devoted itself to working with the countries directly involved to respect the historical facts according to international law, and toward the peaceful settlement of disputes through negotiations and consultations. At the same time, China has always been committed to jointly defending the peace and stability of the South China Sea together with other ASEAN member states to defend the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.
The militarization of the South China Sea offers no advantage to anyone. It is hoped that the United States abides by its promises not to take sides in the South China Sea issue, not to instigate disharmony in other countries' relationships, and not to create tension.