PH drills with US, Japan not an ‘affront’ vs other nations—Palace
The ongoing naval drills between the Philippines, Japan and the United States should not be taken as an “affront” to escalate maritime dispute over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), a Malacañang official said Wednesday.
“The Philippines has had these exercises before with our strategic partner. It should not be taken as an affront to any other (nation) and is an expression of cooperation and learning from those involved,” deputy Presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said in a statement.
On Monday, the Philippines started a simultaneous naval exercise with Japan and US off Palawan.
On Tuesday, China expressed concern over a small military exercise in the Philippines that also involved a Japanese surveillance plane.
The plane and about 20 troops conducted the first of two days of joint training with the Philippine Navy on Tuesday off the coast of Palawan, a strategically important island not far from contested islands in the South China Sea claimed by several countries including China and the Philippines.
While it was for a maritime search and disaster relief drill, the same P-3C plane used is a mainstay of Japan’s anti-submarine and other aerial surveillance efforts and in theory could help the US keep an eye on the Chinese navy in the South China Sea.
While some experts are skeptical Japan would be likely to get involved in the region, such a move would raise tensions with China, with which Japan already has a major territorial dispute over islands farther north in the East China Sea.
The exercise follows the first-ever joint drill between the two navies six weeks ago, and is part of a confluence of developments that suggest Japan may at least test the waters in the South China Sea.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has earlier clarified that the navy drill between the two countries is not related over our maritime dispute with China at the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
AFP said it is just an annual bilateral training conducted to enhance interoperability between the two countries. IDL
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