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Chinese fighter jets 'orbit' Philippine patrol aircraft

Philippine military officials say two Chinese fighter jets "orbited" an aircraft taking part in drills with Australia.



Two Chinese fighter jets were monitored "orbiting" a Philippine aircraft participating in patrols with Australia in the South China Sea but did not cause any untoward incident, officials in Manila said.


The militaries of the Philippines and Australia on Sunday carried out a second day of sea and air exercises in the Southeast Asian country's exclusive economic zone, days after Manila held patrols with the US.


China claims almost the entire South China Sea, a conduit for more than $3 trillion of annual ship-borne commerce, including parts claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei.


The Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2016 said China's claims had no legal basis.


The Philippines is ramping up efforts to counter what it describes as China's "aggressive activities" in the South China Sea, which has also become a flashpoint for Chinese and US tensions around naval operations.


China has accused the Philippines of enlisting "foreign forces" to patrol the South China Sea and stirring up trouble.


"It was confirmed as per reports received that two Chinese fighter jets were monitored orbiting the Philippines' A-29B Super Tucano at the vicinity of Hubo Reef in the West Philippine Sea," Xerxes Trinidad, chief of the Philippine military's public affairs office said.


The West Philippine Sea is Manila's term for waters in the South China Sea that fall within its exclusive economic zone.


The Chinese aircraft continued on its flight route without further incident, Trinidad said.


Philippine military chief Romeo Brawner said the nation was well within its rights to conduct joint patrols with allies to promote the "rule-based international order."


Participating in the joint drills were two Philippine navy vessels and five Philippine surveillance aircraft, and Australia's frigate Toowoomba and P8-A maritime surveillance aircraft.


Australian Defence Minister Richard Marles said the inaugural patrols represented the practical implementation of the strategic partnership signed between the two nations in September.


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