Ships from US, Australia and Japan conduct joint drills in South China Sea in defiance of Beijing

Feb 8, 2024, 3:52 AM

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — Warships from the United States, Australia and Japan have held joint drills in the South China Sea in defiance of Beijing, which claims sovereignty over virtually the entire strategic waterway.

The U.S. 7th Fleet that oversees most U.S. Navy operations in the region said the guided-missile destroyer USS John Finn and combat ship USS Gabrielle Giffords carried out operations with navy ships from Japan and Australia on Wednesday and Thursday.

There was no word on whether the exercises were conducted close to islands and shoals claimed by Beijing, which has built military bases on at least seven islands by piling concrete and sand on top of coral atolls. Beijing objects strongly to foreign naval operations in the area, saying historical records prove it belongs to China.

Each year, an estimated $5 trillion in international commerce passes through the South China Sea, which also holds vital fish stocks and underwater mineral resources.

The U.S. takes no formal stand on sovereignty in the area but rejects China’s claims, partly based on a 2016 ruling by a United Nations-backed court in The Hague. There was no immediate reaction to the exercises from China’s Defense Ministry.

“This multinational sail fortifies our relationship between the U.S., Japan and Australian allies,” Cmdr. Earvin Taylor, John Finn’s commanding officer, said in a statement from the 7th Fleet. “We promote transparency, rule of law, freedom of navigation and all principles that underscore security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific.”

Australian Commodore Jonathan Ley said in the statement that such deployments are “crucial for enhancing mutual understanding and our ability to operate together.”

The U.S., Australia and Japan also operate together in a strategic alliance known as the Quad that also includes India, a Chinese rival in Asia.

The Quad has frequently accused China of flexing its military muscles in the South China Sea and aggressively pushing its maritime territorial claims.

Beijing maintains that its military is purely defensive and protects its sovereign rights, and calls the Quad an attempt to contain its economic growth and influence.

The navies of the four countries regularly hold drills seen as part of an initiative to counter China’s growing assertiveness in the Pacific and Indian oceans and waters surrounding Taiwan. China and Japan also claim exclusive ownership over an uninhabited island group in the East China Sea controlled by Tokyo, with China routinely dispatching ships and planes to the area.

China applies similar tactics with Taiwan, a self-governing island republic of 23 million that it claims as its own territory, to be conquered by force if necessary. Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said Thursday it had detected four Chinese ships operating in the area and that it had, as usual, upgraded security ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday starting at the end of the week.


President Joe Biden arrives on Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Saturday, July 13, 202...

Associated Press

Biden tries to balance his condemnation of the attack on Trump with the ongoing 2024 campaign

WASHINGTON (AP) — Homeland security and law enforcement officials were briefing President Joe Biden on Sunday about the apparent assassination attempt on his predecessor, Donald Trump, as the White House continued to call for national unity and condemn the stunning act of violence. Vice President Kamala Harris was joining Biden for an update from top […]

3 hours ago

FILE - President Ronald Reagan waves and then looks up before being shoved into the President's lim...

Associated Press

Reagan survived an assassination attempt and his response changed the trajectory of his presidency

WASHINGTON (AP) — The would-be assassin got off six shots in 1.7 seconds, nearly taking the life of a president and changing the trajectory of a presidency. It happened on a dreary March afternoon in 1981. President Ronald Reagan was leaving the Washington Hilton hotel after giving a speech to a union group when John […]

5 hours ago

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is helped off the stage by U.S. Sec...

Associated Press

What we know about the 20-year-old suspect in the apparent assassination attempt of Donald Trump

WASHINGTON (AP) — The man identified as the shooter in the apparent assassination attempt of former President Donald Trump was a 20-year-old from a Pittsburg suburb not far from the campaign rally where one attendee was killed. Authorities say Thomas Matthew Crooks of Bethel Park, Pennsylvania, opened fire at the rally before being killed by […]

6 hours ago

Associated Press

Trump is injured but ‘fine’ after apparent assassination attempt leaves rally-goer and gunman dead

BUTLER, Pa. (AP) — On the heels of an apparent attempt to kill him, former President Donald Trump called Sunday for unity and resilience as shocked leaders across the political divide recoiled from the shooting that left him injured but “fine” and the gunman and a rally-goer dead. The presumptive Republican presidential nominee said the […]

6 hours ago

Associated Press

Global leaders condemn Donald Trump’s assassination attempt

HONG KONG (AP) — Global leaders have expressed concern Sunday over an assassination attempt targeting former U.S. President Donald Trump at a rally in Pennsylvania that left one attendee dead and critically injured two others, with many condemning the violence that shocked the world. Trump’s campaign said the presumptive Republican nominee was doing “fine” after […]

12 hours ago

FILE - Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, left, and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator ...

Associated Press

Can a Medicaid plan that requires work succeed? First year of Georgia experiment is not promising

ATLANTA (AP) — By now, Georgia officials expected their new Medicaid plan, the only one in the nation with a work requirement, to provide health insurance to 25,000 low-income residents and possibly tens of thousands more. But a year since its launch, Pathways to Coverage has roughly 4,300 members, much lower than what state officials […]

15 hours ago

Ships from US, Australia and Japan conduct joint drills in South China Sea in defiance of Beijing