France joins PH-US exercises for the first time
MANILA, Philippines—The French navy for the first time joined Philippine-US maritime exercises recently, which could mark France’s efforts to expand contribution to regional security and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.
France took part in the maritime training activity Sama-Sama (Filipino for together) as an observer, along with Japan, which was joining for the second time. The exercises were held online from Oct. 10 to 15 to promote regional security cooperation, maintain and strengthen maritime partnerships and enhance interoperability among operating forces.
“France is in the Indo-Pacific region,” said US Navy Capt. Tom Ogden, head of the Singapore-based Destroyer Squadron 7, at a teleconference early this week.
“So, incorporating them into our operational activities, it just seems consistent with all of our relationships in the region,” Ogden said.
France, which has territories in the region, is also the United States’ oldest ally, with the relationship dating to 1778, he said.
Japan and France were invited by the Philippines and US to join the exercises, which included training in addressing various security threats. Most of the activities were held online due to the pandemic.
The sea phase of the exercise, which was supposed to include US and Philippine naval assets, was cancelled due to bad weather.
“COVID has just shown us that we can continue to do that virtually, not in person, and still achieve the objectives that we set. I would say though that we couldn’t control the weather,” Ogden said.
Sama-Sama replaced maritime exercise CARAT (Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training), which the US carries out with Southeast Asian states, after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the Philippine military to stop training with the US in 2016 in deference to China.