On June 22, Vietnam and the Philippines conducted the third iteration of their naval personnel interactions on Southwest Cay in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. In doing so, both sides have effectively resumed an intra-ASEAN confidence-building activity in the disputed waters even amid the recent changes in dynamics in the South China Sea.
Until the inauguration of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, Vietnam and the Philippines had been significantly strengthening their maritime collaboration as well as their broader relationship for several reasons, including China’s growing assertiveness in the South China Sea. The two sides had come up with mechanisms from hotlines to working groups to facilitate confidence-building, and the relationship was elevated to a strategic partnership in 2015 under Duterte’s predecessor, Benigno Aquino III…
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