Military patrols from Beijing and Washington were spotted in the South China Sea on Wednesday.
The PLA Southern Theater Command stated that it had “deployed naval and air forces for regular patrols” in the sea between January 3 and 4.
Simultaneously, the United States declared that the USS Carl Vinson-led carrier strike group was engaged in a two-day exercise with the Philippine Navy.
“The US Navy regularly conducts exercises like these to strengthen ties among allied and partner nations,” the statement read.
Tensions escalated following the release of videos by the Philippine Coast Guard last month, which showed Chinese ships spraying water at Philippine boats. Furthermore, a recent collision between Philippine and Chinese vessels at a disputed reef resulted in both countries blaming each other for the incident.
Beijing asserts almost complete sovereignty over the South China Sea, dismissing an international tribunal’s ruling that its claims lack legal merit.
“Troops in the theater remain on high alert at all times to resolutely safeguard national sovereignty, security and maritime rights and interests,” the PLA statement said.
“They remain fully aware of any military activities that disrupt the South China Sea and create flashpoints.”
China has consistently warned the Philippines against encroaching on areas within the South China Sea that Beijing claims as its territorial domain. While China asserts control over nearly the entire South China Sea, the Philippines specifically refers to the portion within its exclusive economic zone as the West Philippine Sea.
China accused the Philippines of persistently provoking China by relying on support from the United States. Last year, the Philippines and the U.S. initiated joint patrols in November, escalating security collaborations between the two treaty allies amidst increasing tensions in the South China Sea.
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