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South China Sea Brief: March 27, 2022
China announced many military exercises in the northern area of the South China Sea after the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group entered the sea through San Bernadino Strait on March 23.
Meanwhile, the Liaoning aircraft carrier continued training with its combat group in the Bohai Sea.
USS Abraham Lincoln
The carrier arrived in Manila for a port visit on March 25. But it is not clear whether it will participate in Balikatan 2022 from March 28 to April 8.
According to my sources, USS Abraham Lincoln will also make a port visit in Da Nang, Vietnam in May.
Several days ago, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) released a lot of information and photos of their patrol activities and the presence of Filipino fishermen at Scarborough Shoal.
Patrols were conducted by aircraft and coast guard vessels. These appear to be the first serious efforts by the Philippines to exercise sovereignty over Scarborough Shoal since China controlled the shoal following a standoff in 2012.
PCG also accused a China Coast Guard (CCG) vessel of maneuvering close to a PCG ship on March 2.
Coast Guard personnel have monitored a CCG vessel with bow number 3305 that conducted a close distance maneuvering of approximately 21 yards towards BRP Malabrigo (MRRV-4402) while the said PCG vessel was sailing at the vicinity waters off Bajo de Masinloc.
This constrained the maneuvering space of BRP Malabrigo (MRRV-4402) — a clear violation of the 1972 International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLREGS).
It is noteworthy that PCG released information just days ahead of the Balikatan joint exercise with the U.S.
PCG has been increasing its presence at Scarborough Shoal after the U.S. reaffirmed that an armed attack on the Philippines’s public vessels, or aircraft in the South China Sea would invoke U.S. mutual defense commitments under Article IV of the U.S.-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty.
Taiwan - China
This weekend, a rare incident between China Coast Guard and Taiwan Coast Guard occurred in the South China Sea.
One CCG vessel, the 5203, has been following a Taiwanese research vessel, the Legend, for two days from March 25 - 26, when the latter appeared to be conducting surveys in the Philippines' EEZ.
The Taiwanese research vessel was escorted by a Coast Guard vessel, the Chiayi-class offshore patrol vessel CG 5001. On March 26, another Taiwan Coast Guard vessel, the CG 117, rushed to the scene, according to ship-tracking data.
CCG 5901 continued to make repeated approaches to Vietnam's Hai Thach - Moc Tinh gas field.
A Type 054A frigate was spotted shadowing USNS Bowditch when the latter was operating near China's exercise area in the South China Sea.