China hosts significant naval symposium as South China Sea tensions escalate

Shijiazhuang, a Type 051C guided-missile destroyer.

21st April 2024 – (Hong Kong) The Chinese Navy inaugurated a pivotal biennial gathering of leading international naval figures in Qingdao on Sunday, 21st April. This four-day Western Pacific Naval Symposium, attended by delegates from 30 nations, unfolds against the backdrop of escalating tensions in the South China Sea, particularly involving the United States and its ally, the Philippines.

The symposium, which last convened in Japan in November 2022, includes nations such as Australia, France, India, South Korea, Russia, and Britain. Admiral Stephen Koehler of the U.S. Pacific Fleet is participating, following confirmation from informed sources. The agenda features confidential discussions set for Monday, with seminars addressing maritime security and the revision of protocols for unplanned naval encounters, including modern challenges like drone interactions.

This gathering coincides with the commencement of substantial U.S.-Philippines military drills, intensifying the focus on the region’s strategic dynamics. The drills, starting concurrently with the symposium, mark the first instance of such exercises being held outside Philippine territorial waters, introducing elements such as anti-submarine and anti-missile operations.