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2 Chinese ships spotted near Palawan ahead of Balikatan

By: Faith Agrosino - | April 22,2024 - 11:01 AM

Palawan map

MANILA, Philippines — Two ships from the Chinese maritime militia were seen about 30 nautical miles from the coast of Palawan before the Balikatan exercises this year, according to an American maritime expert.

Ray Powell, who leads Project Myoushu (South China Sea) at the Gordian Knot Center for National Security Innovation at Stanford University, shared this information on X (formerly Twitter) on Sunday.

He said China’s “militia ships have turned back in the direction of Mischief Reef after loitering just outside the Philippines 24 nm contiguous zone.”

“I still have no context for what’s behind this aggression,” Powell wrote.

“Very odd behavior. Perhaps intended to send a message at the beginning of the Balikatan exercise?” he added.


According to Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson Col. Francel Margareth Padilla, this year’s Balikatan exercise is “distinctive due to its scale and evolving nature, adapting to contemporary security challenges.”

READ: Around 16,000 US, PH personnel joining Balikatan 2024 — AFP

“Every balikatan is increasingly complex than the last. It has evolved from the tactical to the operational level of war. We aim to enhance interoperability, strengthen alliances, and deepen regional security cooperation,” she told reporters also on Sunday.

“Balikatan is a demonstration of combat readiness and interoperability with our treaty allies. Our focus remains on bolstering external defense capabilities and fostering peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region,” she added.

Even with the increased Chinese aggression in the West Philippine Sea, Padilla clarified that the exercise is “an annual event aimed at strengthening defense capabilities and alliances.”

“While we remain vigilant in the face of regional challenges, the exercise is not explicitly tied to any particular country’s actions. Its primary objective is to enhance collective security and readiness among participating nations,” the AFP spokesperson said.

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TAGS: China, maritime, Palawan, ships

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