US and UK navies conduct joint naval drills in the South China Sea

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naval drills
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS McCampbell (top), the Military Sealift Command fleet replenishment oiler USNS Henry J. Kaiser (middle), and the Royal Navy Type 23 ‘Duke’ Class guided-missile frigate HMS Argyll (bottom) transit during a replenishment-at-sea. Photo by Dan Rosenbaum

The US and the UK have completed six days of coordinated naval drills in the South China Sea, it has been announced.

In a press statement released today (Wednesday, January 16) the US military said the guided-missile destroyer USS McCampbell and the Royal Navy frigate HMS Argyll conducted operations in the disputed waters from January 11 until today.

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According to the statement, the two vessels conducted naval communications drills, division tactics and a personnel exchange during the week, to “develop relationships” between the two navies.

“Professional engagement with our British counterparts allows us the opportunity to build upon our existing strong relationships and learn from each other,” US Commander Allison Christy said. She added that it was a “rare opportunity” to work with the UK navy.

For his part, the HMS Argyll’s Commander Toby Shaughnessy said: ”We are pleased with the opportunity to train alongside our closest ally.”

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British Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has recently raised the possibility of a new UK military base somewhere in Southeast Asia. Such a move would be likely to anger Beijing, particularly given Britain’s role in China’s so-called “century of humiliation”.

Today’s statement from the US Navy said that HMS Argyll was deployed to the region to “support regional security and stability”. Both the US and the UK conducted anti-submarine warfare drills with the Japanese military in December. The ‘hunt’ with the Japanese helicopter carrier Izumo involved searching for an American nuclear submarine lurking off Japan.

Tensions in the South China Sea have been increasing recently, following a period of relative calm.  

At least five countries — including the Philippines — claim territory in the strategically crucial waters, but Beijing has reinforced its far-reaching claims with a series of militarised artificial islands.

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