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South China Sea
Australia Delivers Ships to Philippines Ahead of SCS Court Ruling

Earlier this week, Australia delivered the Philippines the last three Landing Craft Heavy, part of a deal between Canberra and Manila aimed at bolstering ties between the two nations. Philstar Global:

“With their capability of moving large amounts of cargo, personnel and equipment, these vessels will bolster the PN’s humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) operations. They will also be useful in transporting troops from one operational area to another, especially during amphibious operations,” [Philippines Navy Spokesman Captain] Lincuna said.

The Navy, aside from the newly Philippine-built cargo and logistic ship BRP Tagbanua, has been relying mainly on World War II-era logistic ships in its troop, logistic and humanitarian transports operations for decades.

Lincuna said a platoon of sailors would be assigned to each of the newly delivered cargo ships which will be fitted with .50 caliber heavy machine guns as their defensive weapons.

Meanwhile, officials announced this year’s Phl-US Balikatan exercises will showcase a rapid response force in a combined military drill in Antique next month.

The arrangement was clearly made with Beijing’s South China Sea activities in mind, and it’s the latest demonstration of the consequences of Chinese aggression in the region. The Philippines has taken China’s claims to an international court. In anticipation of a ruling, the United States said on Wednesday that it will not recognize an exclusion zone in the South China Sea. If China loses in court, Washington worries we may see a repeat of events in the East China Sea in 2013 when Beijing declared an air defense identification zone in the region. Speaking about the South China Sea, Deputy Secretary of Defense told Reuters, “We don’t believe they have a basis in international law, and we’ve said over and over (that) we will fly, sail and go wherever international law allows.”

The court’s influential decision is expected to come in the next few weeks. After it is announced, we’ll see what those pledges mean.

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