TOKYO A maritime security net is closing in on China in the South China Sea, where Beijing is building artificial islands on reefs to erect military facilities in disputed waters. The U.S. plans to start joint patrols in the waters with Japan, Australia and the Philippines. Bilateral cooperation is also deepening to curb China's military ambitions.
"What's new is not an American carrier in this region. What's new is the context of tension which exists, which we want to reduce," U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said on April 15 during his visit to the USS John C. Stennis, an aircraft carrier deployed in the South China Sea. His remark came as the U.S. and the Philippines agreed to start joint patrols in the sea. U.S. forces have also gained access to Philippine bases, including those along the South China Sea coast, in accordance with their 2014 bilateral pact. This means U.S. troops will return to the Southeast Asian country after withdrawing from there some 20 years ago.