U.S., Philippines Hold Air Patrol, Drawing China Rebuke

A photo of the joint air patrol posted to social media by the Armed Forces of the Phillippines.

(Bloomberg News/TNS) — The U.S. and the Philippines conducted a joint air patrol over areas facing the disputed South China Sea in another display of a stronger defense alliance, drawing China’s rebuke as maritime tensions linger.

The Philippine Air Force said in a social-media post that it conducted the patrol with the U.S. Pacific Air Forces on Monday over the western part of the Southeast Asian nation’s main island.

“This cooperative activity aims to bolster cooperation between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and their U.S. counterparts,” the Philippine Air Force said in its post, which also included photos and videos of the patrol.

The Chinese military’s Southern Theater Command, in a Weibo statement, described the air patrol as a publicity stunt, and accused the Philippines of disrupting order in the South China Sea by enlisting countries outside the region. China also said its troops will maintain a high degree of vigilance and resolutely defend national sovereignty.

The Philippines under President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has bolstered its longstanding defense alliance with the U.S., while publicizing and protesting China’s moves in the South China Sea, which Beijing claims almost in its entirety. Washington and Manila have also recently conducted sea patrols in the disputed area.

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