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Philippines, US navies to hold 2-week exercise

The Philippines and United States navies are set to hold a two-week joint naval activity to strengthen international defense cooperation, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said.

In a statement, AFP Public Affairs Office Chief, Lt. Enrico Ileto said the naval warfare activities, dubbed “Samasama Exercise,” would run from October 2 to 12 at the Naval Forces Southern Luzon area of operations.

This developed as Army chiefs and senior officers from 30 countries, including the United States and the Philippines, met in India on Tuesday to discuss threats facing the Asia-Pacific region, in the face of concern at an increasingly assertive China.

US Army chief Randy George said the region was “critically important,” speaking to reporters alongside his Indian counterpart Manoj Pande, and vowed to boost cooperation to “maintain a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

Nations present at the two-day conference in New Delhi included Vietnam and the Philippines, both of which have long-standing pending territorial disputes with China.

Samasama “is a bilateral exercise between the United States Navy (USN) and the Philippine Navy (PN) that aims to further strengthen international defense cooperation and advance a rules-based international order,” Ileto said in a statement.

The exercise would enhance the Philippine Navy’s naval warfare capabilities, which include anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, anti-air warfare, and electronic warfare.

“The training will also strive to further improve maritime integration and combined interoperability with the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF), Royal Australian Navy, Royal Canadian Navy (RCN), and the United Kingdom (UK) Royal Navy through subject-matter expert exchanges (SMEE) and humanitarian assistance and disaster response (HADR) table-top events,” said Ileto.

Meanwhile, the French Navy (FN) and Royal Australian Navy (RAN) will also send personnel to join the SMEEs, while the Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) and Indonesian Navy (IN) will be in the exercise as observers.

The opening ceremony will be held on October 2 at the Philippine Navy Headquarters in Manila.

In India, generals from Japan and Australia, which make up the “Quad” defense cooperation forum alongside Washington and New Delhi, also took part, as did Britain and France.

As the Army generals met, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that Beijing would oppose the “wanton expansion of military alliances”, the latest in a string of warnings as Washington deepens security ties in the Asia-Pacific.

Beijing has long said that any effort to establish a NATO-like military alliance in the Asia-Pacific would provoke conflict.

The conference, which launched in 1999, brings together army chiefs and top officers from 30 countries.

India’s Pande said the region faced challenges both on land and at sea.

“These range from territorial disputes over land masses, or in some cases, even over artificially expanded islands to acquire real estate and establish military bases,” Pande added, in an indirect reference to China.

India has also had to balance its traditional alliance with Russia — the provider of most of its arms imports, and now a source of cut-price oil — with growing ties to Washington.

“The partnership between India and the US armies is vital for stability in the region, and the relationship between our armies is strong and growing stronger,” George said. With AFP

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