In a show of force against China amid ever-growing tensions in the much-disputed waterway, defense allies the Philippines and the U.S. started conducting joint naval exercises on Monday.
Per officials, 600 members of the U.S. Navy and roughly the same number of Filipino sailors will participate in the 12-day Samasama exercise. Japanese, British, Canadian, French, Australian, and United Kingdom naval troops will also take part in the exercise for the second year.
The yearly war games will take place in the South China Sea in and around southern Luzon, the key and most densely populated island of the Philippines.
The rights of all countries to enable and promote sovereignty must be upheld, safeguarded, and never taken for granted, said Vice Admiral Karl Thomas, the commander of the U.S. 7th Fleet, at a ceremony at the headquarters of the Philippine Navy’s headquarters.
The activity is taking place while tensions regarding the waterway between China and the Philippines are at an all-time high. Manila has accused the China Coast Guard of setting up a “floating barrier” (328 yard long) to block access to the Scarborough Shoal on September 22. The barrier was dismantled the following day by the Philippine Coast Guard during a “special operation.”
While Thomas avoided naming China specifically, Vice Admiral Toribio Adaci Jr. of the Filipino Navy made an explicit reference to a 2016 decision by an international arbitration court that backed the Philippines’ claims over China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea.
In the meantime, on Sunday, David Hartman, the Canadian ambassador to the Philippines, informed the reporters that his country would provide Manila with free access to modern satellites.
Manila to monitor its claimed exclusive economic zone in the sea in real time.
According to him, satellites can track even “dark vessels” or ships with their position transmitters turned off.
References: Benar News, Nikkei Asia
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