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FACT CHECK: No retaliation vs China in South China Sea joint drills


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FACT CHECK: No retaliation vs China in South China Sea joint drills
A YouTube video falsely suggests that the vessels from the US, Japan, and Australia are meant to counter Chinese aggression against Philippine vessels

Claim: Battleships from the US, Japan, and Australia will retaliate against China over its recent acts of hostility in the West Philippine Sea.

Rating: FALSE

Why we fact-checked this: The claim was made in a Facebook video posted on August 29, which has gained 54,000 views, 1,800 reactions, and 76 shares from a page with 135,000 followers. The same video is also posted on YouTube, with 49,632 views and 611 likes as of writing.

In the video, the narrator implies that the foreign vessels are meant to retaliate against China amid recent tensions in the West Philippine Sea, Manila’s term for the waters in the South China Sea under its exclusive economic zone.

The video was posted several days after the Philippines completed its resupply mission to its outpost in Ayungin Shoal following a failed attempt earlier in August amid Chinese harassment.

The bottom line: Vessels from the US, Japan, and Australia joined the Philippines in a quadrilateral exercise last August 24. The joint drills aimed to “strengthen collaboration toward the realization of a free and open Indo-Pacific,” Kyodo News reported. 

The exercises aimed to improve defense cooperation and interoperability among the participating countries. There was no mention of the joint drills being intended to retaliate against China. 

Joint naval drills: According to the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, the vessels that participated in the exercises were the destroyers JS Izumo and JS Samidare, the US Navy’s combat ship USS Mobile, Australia’s amphibious assault ship HMAS Canberra, frigate HMAS Anzac, and F-35A fighter jets, and the Philippine Navy’s landing ship BRP Davao del Sur. 

ABC News earlier reported that the drill aims to underscore US, Japanese, and Australian commitment to the rule of law in the region after the recent incidents of Chinese maritime aggression against the Philippines.

For its part, the Armed Forces of the Philippines clarified that the joint drills are “not addressed to one specific country” and do not indicate that the four countries are “ganging up” on China.

Support for Manila: The Philippines has conducted bilateral and trilateral military training with its three allies. Last June, Manila strengthened its defense cooperation with the US, Australia, and Japan through the first-ever defense ministerial meeting between the four countries held in Singapore. 

The joint drills come after Chinese coast guard vessels blocked and fired water cannons at Philippine ships en route to Ayungin Shoal in the West Philippine Sea last August. (READ: [ANALYSIS] Flashpoints in the Philippines-China relationship)

The US, Japan, and Australia were among the countries that denounced China’s harassment as “dangerous actions” that threaten peace and stability in the region, reports said.

The three countries also expressed their support for the 2016 Hague ruling in favor of Manila that invalidated China’s nine-dash line claim over most of the South China Sea.

Rappler has already published several fact-check articles on claims about foreign vessels’ supposed attacks on China:

– Kyle Marcelino/Rappler.com

Kyle Marcelino is a graduate of Rappler’s fact-checking mentorship program. This fact check was reviewed by a member of Rappler’s research team and a senior editor. Learn more about Rappler’s fact-checking mentorship program here.

Keep us aware of suspicious Facebook pages, groups, accounts, websites, articles, or photos in your network by contacting us at factcheck@rappler.com. Let us battle disinformation one Fact Check at a time.

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