Philippines, Australia Practice Retaking Island in South China Sea

About 120 US Marines also participated in the drill

Australian and Philippine troops backed by a group of US Marines simulated retaking an island in the South China Sea amid heightened tensions in the region between Manila and Beijing.

According to AFP, the drills took place at a naval base about 150 miles east of Scarborough Shoal, a chain of disputed rocks and reefs in the South China Sea that’s been controlled by China since 2012 and is also claimed by the Philippines and Taiwan.

The exercise involved about 1,200 Australian soldiers and 560 Philippine marines storming a beach using parachutes, amphibious landing vessels, and a US Osprey aircraft. According to AP, 120 US Marines also participated in the exercise.

The landing was part of Exercise Alon, the first-ever joint amphibious military exercise between Australia and the Philippines. Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and visiting Australian Defense Minister Richard Marles watched the mock beach assault.

“Considering that there have been so many events that attest to the volatility of the region, this kind of exercise, this kind of close strategic cooperation between countries around the region is extremely important,” Marcos told reporters.

Map showing overlapping claims in the South China Sea

The US has been encouraging its allies in the Asia Pacific to increase cooperation as part of its strategy to prepare for a future war with China in the region. The South China Sea has become especially volatile as Chinese and Philippine vessels often have tense encounters, and Washington is strongly backing Manila’s claims against Beijing.

In the most recent incident, Chinese vessels briefly blocked Philippine boats from resupplying a grounded ship on Second Thomas Shoal. China said it eventually let the Philippine boats through under a “temporary special arrangement.” The US has repeatedly stated that the US-Philippine Mutual Defense Treaty applies to attacks on Philippine vessels in the South China Sea.

Author: Dave DeCamp

Dave DeCamp is the news editor of, follow him on Twitter @decampdave.