BANGKOK — The United States and the Philippines are conducting joint air and maritime patrols in the South China Sea, which come as the two countries step up cooperation in the face of growingly aggressive Chinese activity in the area.
The Philippine Air Force said Wednesday its aircraft had taken part in joint patrols the day before in the vicinity of Batanes, the northernmost province of the Philippines, which is only about 200 kilometers (125 miles) from Taiwan, a self-governed island that China claims as its own.
The patrols run through Thursday and also include both the U.S. and Philippine navies. They come only days after Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. called the situation in the South China Sea increasingly “dire” as China seeks to assert its presence in an area where multiple nations have competing territorial claims.
Asked about the patrols, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said Beijing's position had been made clear to both the Philippines and the U.S.
“The Philippines-U.S. joint patrol drill must not undermine China's territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests,” she said.
The U.S. 7th Fleet said the patrols were part of routine American interaction with its allies and partners in “preserving a free and open Indo-Pacific region.”
China claims virtually the entire South China Sea as its own waters, which has led to disputes not only with the Philippines but…