Six different navies led by the strike groups of the United States, United Kingdom and Japan conducted military exercises in the Philippine Sea over the weekend.
At least 17 surface ships and over 15,000 sailors from the six countries, including those from New Zealand, The Netherlands, and Canada, participated in the major naval exercise.
The US Navy on Wednesday said two of its carrier strike groups, led by USS Ronald Reagan and USS Carl Vinson, joined UK’s HMS Queen Elizabeth and warships from the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Forces.
“This training, which brings together three carrier strike groups, embodies the strong will of the participating countries to realize a free and open Indo-Pacific. The JMSDF will work closely with allied and friendly navies, which share the same objectives, to respond to global challenges and defend maritime order based on the rule of law,” JMSDF Escort Flotilla 2 commander Rear Adm. Konno Yasushige said in a statement.
“We have continued to improve our ability to conduct prompt and sustained operations at sea with a more mobile, agile and flexible force,” US carrier strike group commander Rear Adm. Dan Martin said in a separate statement.
The UK Royal Navy lauded the operations as a “half a million tons of sea power projection from 6 nations with an equally impressive air wing.”
“Working with our close allies to develop operating procedures and capabilities while concurrently showcasing the agility of land and carrier-based aviation in the Indo-Pacific demonstrates our commitment to the region,” said UK carrier strike group commander Commodore Steve Moorhouse.
The United States has been leading “freedom of navigation” exercises in the region to push back on China’s claims to the South China Sea.
In a 2016 arbitral ruling, the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled that Beijing’s nine-dash line, a demarcation that covers almost 80 percent of the South China Sea, is illegal.