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The guided-missile destroyer USS Decatur (DDG 73) (far right) sails in formation as part of interoperability drills between the Pacific Surface Action Group (PAC SAG) and Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group (BHR ESG) in the South China Sea Sea, Oct. 13, 2016. The drills are meant to enhance readiness of cruiser-destroyer ships to rapidly integrate with an amphibious task force to provide increased capability for amphibious operations in support of crisis response or disaster relief. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Will Gaskill)

US, Allies To Conduct Naval Drills In Philippines

Total Views: 2457
April 7, 2024

By Cecilia Yap

(Bloomberg) –The US, Australia, Japan and the Philippines will hold joint military drills in the South China Sea on April 7 amid heightened tension between Manila and Beijing in the disputed waters. 

In a joint statement, the four nations’ defense chiefs said their combined armed forces will conduct a maritime cooperative activity within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone to strengthen interoperability. The southern division of the Chinese Liberation Army will organize a maritime and air patrols on the same day, according to a statement Sunday. 

“Every country should be free to conduct lawful air and maritime operations,” US Defense Secretary Lloyd James Austin said in the statement. “These activities with our allies Australia, Japan, and the Philippines underscore our shared commitment to ensuring that all countries are free to fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows.” 

Sunday’s drills will happen days before Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida meet with President Joe Biden at the White House on April 11 to discuss cooperation in the areas of economy as well as peace and security in the Indo-Pacific region.

A Philippine official on Friday said the leaders will tackle recent incidents in the South China Sea. In the latest confrontation between Chinese and Philippine ships last month, Manila said a Filipino civilian boat was severely damaged and some of its crew members were injured when two China Coast Guard ships fired water cannons at it. The China Coast Guard said it acted in “a reasonable and professional manner.”

“Australia, Japan, the Philippines, and the United States uphold the right to freedom of navigation and overflight, and respect for maritime rights under international law, reflected in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea,” the joint statement said. 

The four nations also affirmed their position that the 2016 South China Sea Arbitral Tribunal Award that favored the Philippines over China in their maritime dispute as final and legally binding. The award was given by the Permanent Court of Arbitration, a non-UN intergovernmental organization located in The Hague.

© 2024 Bloomberg L.P.

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