PH, US, Japan to hold naval drills near disputed waters—report
THE Philippines will hold concurrent naval drills with US and Japan next week amid the backdrop of China’s rapid expansion in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea).
The Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) with the US will be held east of Palawan from June 18 to 30, the Philippine Fleet said Thursday.
“The exercise aims to conduct combined naval operations in order to enhance interoperability between the PN and US Navy forces. Furthermore, it will strengthen both navies; combined capabilities in amphibious operations, special operations, surface warfare, and modern naval warfare; enhance information sharing; and will promote relationship and good will,” said Philippine Fleet public affairs officer Lieutenant Liezl Vidallon.
The exercises, which will start on Monday, will include helicopter crash and salvage drill and P3-Orion surveillance plane flight near the disputed waters.
Vidallon said the exercises are not targeted against any country and is not related to the South China Sea tension.
“This is not related to the West Philippine Sea. It’s just an annual bilateral training conducted to enhance interoperability between the two parties,” she said.
Also next week, the Philippine Navy will hold naval drills with the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force.
The Philippine Navy could not immediately say where the drills will be held, but Japanese media said, quoting sources, that it will also be held near the disputed waters.
Japanese media earlier said that JMSDF will use a P-3C, a maritime, surveillance aircraft, but the drills will include disaster relief exercises in open seas and not surveillance activities.
This will be the second time that Japan and the Philippines will hold naval drills. Last month, they held drills near the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
The drills, which will run from June 22 to 26, will be held a few weeks after President Benigno Aquino III’s visit to Japan for talks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Both leaders have agreed to work on an agreement that will allow Japanese troops to visit the Philippines, and a possible expanded presence in the West Philippine Sea.
Philippine Navy earlier said that exercises with Japan are only “incidental” and not aimed against any country, particularly China.
Claimants of the disputed seas, including the Philippines and Vietnam, have expressed concern on China’s massive reclamation activities. AC
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