China faces new challenges in South China Sea

Cheryl Sanders
May 11, 2019

"The Group Sail exercise with the naval ships of Japan, the Philippines and the United States showcased India's commitment to operating with like-minded nations to ensure a safe maritime environment through enhanced interoperability", an Indian government press release read.

The worldwide fleet included the carrier JS Izumo and destroyer JS Murasame, from Japan's Maritime Self-Defense Force, the destroyer INS Kolkata and support vessel INS Shakti, from the Indian Navy, and from the Philippines, the BRP Andres Bonifacio naval patrol ship.

Japan's largest flat-topped helicopter carrier - and the destroyer Murasame joined warships from the other three nations, performing formation exercises, communication drills and passenger transfers from May 2 through Wednesday.

The captain of the USA destroyer, Commander Andrew J Klug, in turn, said, "Professional engagements with our allies, partners and friends in the region are opportunities to build upon our existing, strong relationships". The ruling recognized the Philippines' sovereign rights in sea features being claimed by China that are within Manila's 200-nautical mile exclusve economic zone.

This is the first phase of the ASEAN-Plus Defense Ministers' Meeting Maritime Security Field Training Exercise (ADMM-Plus MARSEC FTX) 2019 in Busan, Republic of Korea. Ships from the four countries transited global waters to Changi, Singapore where the second phase of the exercise will conclude.

The Group Sail was aimed at deepening existing partnership and foster mutual understanding among participating navies, the Indian Navy said.

Japan, India, and the USA have no claims in the South China Sea but the US conducts freedom-of-navigation operations as it calls out China for alleged militarization of contested areas. "As with other naval exercises, this activity is expected to validate the decades of friendship, partnership and cooperative engagement that has been long established and observed between the Philippines, US, Japan and India", she said.

The United States, which has vowed to sail through the region to show freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, was excited to take part in the event, said Cmdr.

"The ability to do various exercises among four different navies smoothly demonstrated professionalism and high operational skills", Egawa said in the statement.

The six vessels gathered "to train together and promote maritime cooperation throughout a free and open Indo-Pacific", the Navy said in the statement.

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