Australia-Philippines Convergence and the Containment of China

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In a statement on 25 August 2023, Australian Defense Minister Richard Marles said that his country has security interests in the South China Sea and that they will work more closely with the Philippines on joint patrols.[1] In this context, more than 2,000 Australian and Filipino military personnel are conducting Alon Exercises in the South China Sea between 14-31 August 2023.[2]

Australia, Japan and the Philippines organized joint maritime patrols in the area in mid-August. In addition, it has been announced that the Philippine and Australian navies will soon carry out their first joint patrols in the South China Sea.[3] In addition, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is expected to visit the Philippines in September to discuss defense cooperation. The Philippines is trying to expand its partners in the region through maritime cooperation in case of a possible conflict risk in and around the Taiwan Strait.

It is noteworthy that the USA did not participate in the joint transfers between Australia, Japan and the Philippines. Similarly, the Philippines could not participate in the US-Japan-Australia joint exercise held in the South China Sea in the last week of August due to logistical constraints. According to China’s Global Times Newspaper; These logistical restrictions could be an excuse for Manila to strike a balance between the US and China.[4] In this context, it is estimated that the Philippines is turning to regional partners such as Australia and Japan and wants to get rid of the pressure of the USA.

The Philippines had allocated four additional military bases for US use earlier this year. Moreover, the two countries had signed the biggest “Balikatan Military Exercise” ever. The proximity of the Philippines and Japan to Taiwan Island causes these countries to play a critical role in the US’s strategy to contain China. Because the Philippines is desired to be used as a forward deployment base by the USA in a potential military conflict in the South China Sea. Regional allies such as the Philippines, Japan and Australia will suffer the most, as the transoceanic United States will be delayed in quickly becoming involved in a potential conflict in Taiwan.

The Manila government is concerned that China may launch an operation against Taiwan and thus be drawn into the war. This was expressed by the President of the Philippines Ferdinand Marcos himself.[5] The Philippines realizes that it will suffer the most in this war, and establishes military partnerships with the United States. It is seen that Manila also focuses on cooperation with Australia and Japan instead of following the USA completely. In other words, a regional solidarity without the USA is also being formed.

The Philippines has recently shown increasing interest in Australia to diffuse the risks of war in Taiwan. There is a 1951 Joint Defense Agreement between the United States and the Philippines. On the other hand, Australia does not commit to support the USA on Taiwan issue.[6] Therefore, the Philippines itself is expected to establish bilateral defense partnerships with Australia.

It seems that Australia, Japan and the Philippines have focused on developing a regional cooperation-solidarity process in which the USA cannot be involved, assuming that a possible war will affect them the most. In this context, Australia shows increasing interest not only in the Philippines but also in Japan.

While the USA accelerates the containment strategy of China, the number of bilateral, tripartite and quadrilateral dialogue mechanisms in the region is also increasing. Asia-Pacific countries are concerned that China is trying to establish a military activity in the region. Western states and especially the USA have a great influence on the formation of these fears.

However, actors such as the Philippines, Australia, India, France and Indonesia may have started to think that it would be more appropriate to develop a regional partnership instead of marginalizing China by being on the axis of the USA. This could hit the US’s strategy of containment with China. If states such as the Philippines, India and Australia do not follow a proactive policy against China in a possible crisis in the Asia-Pacific, the dreams of the USA to establish an “anti-Chinese” alliance in the Pacific will be crushed.

[1] “Philippines, Australia to Uphold Law and Order on S. China Sea”, Tvp World,, (Date of Accession: 25.08.2023).

[2] “Australia’s Biggest Warship Deployed in Philippine Drills”, Channel New Asia,, (Date of Accession: 25.08.2023).

[3] “Australia Says It Will Conduct More Joint Patrols with Philippines in South China Sea”, Reuters,, (Date of Accession: 25.08.2023).

[4] “Philippines To Skip US-Japan-Australia Joint Drills İn South China Sea”, Global Times,, (Date of Accession: 25.08.2023).

[5] “Marcos Says Philippines Bases Could Be ‘Useful’ If Taiwan Attacked”, Reuters,, (Date of Accession: 25.08.2023).  

[6] “Australia has ‘Absolutely Not’ Committed to Join US In Event of War Over Taiwan, Marles Says”, The Guardian,, (Date of Accession: 25.08.2023).   

Dr. Cenk TAMER
Dr. Cenk Tamer, 2014 yılında Sakarya Üniversitesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü’nden mezun olmuştur. Aynı yıl Gazi Üniversitesi Ortadoğu ve Afrika Çalışmaları Bilim Dalı’nda yüksek lisans eğitimine başlamıştır. 2016 yılında “1990 Sonrası İran’ın Irak Politikası” başlıklı teziyle master eğitimini tamamlayan Tamer, 2017 yılında ANKASAM’da Araştırma Asistanı olarak göreve başlamış ve aynı yıl Gazi Üniversitesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Doktora Programı’na kabul edilmiştir. Uzmanlık alanları İran, Mezhepler, Tasavvuf, Mehdilik, Kimlik Siyaseti ve Asya-Pasifik olan ve iyi derecede İngilizce bilen Tamer, Gazi Üniversitesindeki doktora eğitimini “Sosyal İnşacılık Teorisi ve Güvenlikleştirme Yaklaşımı Çerçevesinde İran İslam Cumhuriyeti’nde Kimlik İnşası Süreci ve Mehdilik” adlı tez çalışmasıyla 2022 yılında tamamlamıştır. Şu anda ise ANKASAM’da Asya-Pasifik Uzmanı olarak görev almaktadır.