The navies of the Philippines, the US, Japan and India have sailed together for the first time through the contested South China Sea.
The operation was described today (Thursday, May 9) as a bid to “promote maritime cooperation throughout a free and open Indo-Pacific”.
The ships were en route to Singapore for the second phase of the Asean Defense Ministers Meeting Plus Maritime Security Field Training Exercise (ADMM-Plus MARSEC FTX).
The flotilla included the USS William P Lawrence missile destroyer, the Japanese aircraft carrier Izumo, two Indian naval ships and the Philippine Navy’s BRP Andres Bonifacio.
In a statement today, Captain Roy Vincent Trinidad, the Philippine Navy’s head of delegation, said: “The group sail showed the active participation of the Philippine Navy as it strengthens its relationships with allies and partners in the Asia Pacific region. This gives us another opportunity to learn from like-minded navies.
Captain Jerry Garrido, the commanding officer of BRP Andres Bonifacio, said: “Our bond of friendship with our regional partners is as strong as our commitment to maintain peace and stability in the region.”
The ships were sailing from Busan in South Korea, the venue of the first phase of the ADMM-Plus MARSEC FTX.
During the week-long voyage to Singapore, the navies conducted a series of training exercises and social interactions.
Japanese Rear Admiral Hiroshi Egawa said: “The opportunity of a multi-sail with US Navy and regional partners was a great experience. In addition to building mutual understanding and trust, it also served as a way to enhance peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.
These sentiments were echoed in a statement issued by the US 7th Fleet, which said: “Events like this provide opportunities for like-minded navies to train together and promote maritime cooperation throughout a free and open Indo-Pacific.”
China claims nearly all of the South China Sea, despite a United Nations-backed court ruling in favour of the Philippines in 2016. Beijing refuses to recognise this decision.
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