Friday, April 15, 2016

Vietnam, Philippines Still Mulling South China Sea Joint Patrols

The story itself is nothing new, broadly speaking. Such discussions are the product of a growing bilateral relationship between Vietnam and the Philippines, which elevated their ties to the level of a strategic partnership last year (See: "Vietnam, Philippines Near New Strategic Partnership"). Though I've tirelessly pointed out that the South China Sea is only one of several issues under this strategic partnership, it has certainly been a key driver in the development of stronger defense ties.
More specifically, discussions about joint patrols and other collective engagements in South China Sea have been going on privately for a while now, among Hanoi and Manila as well as others (See: "US-Japan Joint Patrols in the South China Sea?"). For instance, as I noted in a previous piece, the Philippines has privately broached the possibility of joint freedom of navigation patrols with the United States in bilateral discussions (See: "Why the Philippines is Critical to the US Rebalance to Asia"). Yet at the recent U.S.-Philippine Bilateral Security Dialogue in March, when The Diplomat asked U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg whether this would take place, he refused to say anything more beyond the fact that the United States usually comments about these operations after they occur, not before (See: "A Big Deal? US, Philippines Agree First 'Bases' Under New Defense Pact").

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