Philippines wants joint naval exercise with China in Sulu Sea

Duterte made the announcement following the recent visit of three Chinese warships to Davao City.

Chinese navy sails through Miyako Strait, conducts more drills in Western Pacific
Picture for representation Reuters

Philippines President, Rodrigo Duterte, made a surprise announcement when he said he would like to hold a joint military exercise with China in the Sulu Sea - a Philippine-Malaysia border known for maritime piracy and frequent sightings of the Abu Sayyaf Group.

Duterte made the announcement following the recent visit of three Chinese warships to his hometown in Davao City in the Southern Philippines.

"We can have joint exercises here in Mindanao, maybe in the Sulu Sea," Duterte was quoted by the Philippine Star Global.

The Sulu Sea in the Southern Philippine border is known for kidnapping incidents that have been victimising sailors from Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam. Suspected members of Sulu pirates would abduct sailors and will eventually ask for money ransom from relatives for their release. If the concerned party fails to pay the amount on time, the hostage gets beheaded, more often than not.

The visit of three China warships coincided a day after the end of the ASEAN Summit in Manila where leaders are divided on the decision - whether or not to bring the Hague ruling on the South China Sea at the ASEAN meeting. Being the host to the ASEAN Summit, the Philippines refused to discuss the presence of China structures in the disputed waters.

The three warships included a guided missile destroyer, a guided missile cruiser and a Chao Hu replenishment ship.

Duterte's friendship with US fizzling out?

Duterte's announcement could have surprised the military because the present Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has an ongoing joint military exercise with US soldiers.

The US and China governments are at loggerheads with each other regarding their conflicting views on the South China Sea. The US stands firm to defend the freedom of maritime navigation despite China's insistence of her claim over the region.

Russia to bond with Philippines?

Meanwhile, Russia, despite having language and cultural barriers with the Philippines, hinted at joint military exercises with the country. Like China, Russia and US also have conflicting foreign policies, especially on the ongoing Syria crisis. Russian warships also visited Northern Philippines and Duterte had a short tour of the visiting ship.

Duterte, over the weekend, received a call from US President Donald Trump inviting him to visit the US, but the Filipino leader has not yet publicly confirmed if he would accept the invitation.