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Thursday May 30, 2024

China hosts foreign naval officials amid South China Sea tensions

A January preliminary meeting discussed the creation of a working group to prevent drone collisions at sea, state media reported

By Reuters
April 22, 2024
A Chinese navy formation, including the aircraft carrier Liaoning, during military drills in the South China Sea. — AFP/File
 A Chinese navy formation, including the aircraft carrier Liaoning, during military drills in the South China Sea. — AFP/File

QINGDAO, China: The Chinese Navy on Sunday kicked off a biennial meeting of top foreign naval officials in the port city of Qingdao, in a show of military diplomacy that will be closely watched for signs of more engagement between China and the United States.

The four-day event with delegations from 30 countries comes during heightened tensions in the South China Sea, as U.S. treaty ally Manila is in an increasingly fraught standoff with Beijing over the strategic waterway, which could be a potential flashpoint for U.S.-China relations.

Pacific Fleet Commander Admiral Stephen Koehler will attend the Western Pacific Naval Symposium on behalf of the United States, according to a source familiar with the matter. Other country delegations include Australia, France, India, South Korea, Russia and Britain, state media reported.

Participants will hold closed-door talks on Monday, with seminars on topics such as addressing maritime security challenges. They will also discuss the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea, a set of guidelines formulated a decade ago, meant to de-escalate tensions between militaries at sea. It has not since been updated to cover drone warfare.

A January preliminary meeting discussed the creation of a working group to prevent drone collisions at sea, state media reported.

The event overlaps with annual U.S.-Philippines large-scale joint military drills beginning on Monday, which will occur outside Philippine territorial waters for the first time.