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Members of the Indian Navy on board the vessel INS Kadmatt (F29) (L) and INS Satpura (F48) arrive for a four-day goodwill visit which aims to strengthen ties between India and the Philippines, at the Pier 15 in Port Are, metro Manila, Philippines October 3, 2017.

REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco

India sends ships to South China Sea as it builds naval strength

When Indian warships steamed into Manila Harbor on Monday, they sent a message to Beijing. With its land borders cut off by archrival Pakistan, wartorn Myanmar, and an increasingly hostile Beijing, New Delhi is committed to becoming a world-class naval power. The port call in the Philippines followed similar stops in Singapore, Vietnam, and Malaysia as India attempts to build stronger bonds with Southeast Asian partners, many of whom share anxieties about China’s territorial ambitions.

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FILE PHOTO: Chinese Coast Guard vessels fire water cannons towards a Philippine resupply vessel Unaizah on May 4 as it made its way to the Second Thomas Shoal in the South China Sea, March 5, 2024.

REUTERS/Adrian Portugal//File Photo

Filipino fisherman fleet floats toward fraught waters

A flotilla of Philippine fishing vessels was put to sea Wednesday to assert sovereignty over the disputed Scarborough Shoal — where China has dozens of ships waiting for them. Chinese vessels have injured sailors with water cannons over disputed shoals in the South China Sea before, so Manila has dispatched Coast Guard vessels and an aircraft to monitor the situation.

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Members of Philippine Marines is pictured at BRP Sierra Madre, a dilapidated Philippine Navy ship that has been aground since 1999 and became a Philippine military detachment on the disputed Second Thomas Shoal, part of the Spratly Islands, in the South China Sea March 29, 2014. Picture taken March 29, 2014.

REUTERS/Erik De Castro

Hard Numbers: Manila’s many protests, US views of China, Kenya floods, Germany’s baby bust, US-Russia staring contest in Niger

20: Manila filed a diplomatic protest on Thursday — its 20th in 2024 — against Chinese harassment of its vessels in the South China Sea. That’s a rate of more than one a week, as Beijing seems little deterred by US and Japanese efforts to bolster the Philippines’ military capacities.

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China shouldn’t “coerce or intimidate” the Philippines in the South China Sea, says US Ambassador
China shouldn’t “coerce or intimidate” the Philippines in the South China Sea | GZERO World

China shouldn’t “coerce or intimidate” the Philippines in the South China Sea, says US Ambassador

Tensions are rising between China and the Philippines over control of the South China Sea, which Beijing sees as its territory, and Manila as its exclusive economic zone. On GZERO World with Ian Bremmer, US Ambassador Nick Burns explained the US position that it is concerned about China’s aggression in the South China Sea, particularly at Second Thomas Shoal, a submerged reef where Manila deliberately beached a ship in 1999 and has used as a military outpost ever since.

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FILE PHOTO: Chinese Coast Guard vessels fire water cannons towards a Philippine resupply vessel Unaizah May 4 on its way to a resupply mission at Second Thomas Shoal in the South China Sea, March 5, 2024.

REUTERS/Adrian Portugal

Another standoff in the South China Sea

On Saturday, a Chinese coast guard vessel blocked two Philippine government ships near the country’s coast forover eight hours. The incident occurred at the boundary of the nine-dash line, a demarcation Beijing uses to assert its claims to the waters butwhich was dismissed by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague in 2016.

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Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., U.S. President Joe Biden and Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida are pictured ahead of their trilateral summit at the White House in Washington on April 11, 2024.

Kohei Choji / The Yomiuri Shimbun via Reuters Connect

Manila gets a big boost, but does it matter to Beijing?

Washington and Tokyo promised Manila they would help secure its seas and upgrade its infrastructure at their trilateral summit in Washington on Thursday — all big gestures, but what do they look like from Beijing?

Political winds have shifted against China in the Philippines since President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. came to power in June 2022. His predecessor, Rodrigo Duterte, allegedly sealed a secret deal with China that is now at the center of a dangerous conflict in the South China Sea.

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Jess Frampton

Jess Frampton

How stable is the US-China relationship?

The most geopolitically important relationship in the world is fundamentally adversarial and devoid of trust. Its long-term trajectory remains negative, with no prospect of substantial improvement.

And yet, ever since US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping met at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Woodside, Calif., last November, US-China relations have looked comparatively stable amid a sea of chaos.

In the months that have followed, both sides have continued to seek steadier ties through frequent high-level engagement as well as new dialogue channels on a wide range of policy areas. In January, the US and China resumed military-to-military talks for the first time in nearly two years. On April 2, Biden and Xi spoke by telephone and ratified their ongoing commitment to manage tensions. The presidential call came after the third in-person meeting between US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in less than a year on Jan. 16-17. It set the stage for US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen’s trip to China this past week – where she met with senior Chinese officials, local and provincial leaders, and top economists – as well as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken's upcoming visit. Both militaries are currently in the final stages of preparation for a maritime dialogue and a likely ministerial meeting at the Shangri-La Dialogue in June.

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FILE PHOTO - A Philippine flag flutters from BRP Sierra Madre, a dilapidated Philippine Navy ship that has been aground since 1999 and became a Philippine military detachment on the disputed Second Thomas Shoal, part of the Spratly Islands, in the South China Sea March 29, 2014.

REUTERS/Erik De Castro/File Photo

Can the US and Philippines get Beijing to back off?

On Monday, 3,500 US and Filipino troops began what could become their largest-ever annual training exercises on the Philippine island of Luzon. This came a day after major multilateral naval drills in the South China Sea and just ahead of a trilateral US-Philippines-Japan summit in Washington on Thursday.

The message to China? Take the US-Philippines alliance seriously.

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