The US military on Monday began multilateral exercises with its Philippine allies and several international partners amid rising tensions between Manila and Beijing over territorial disputes in the South China Sea.
According to a US Navy press release, Maritime Exercise Sama Sama 2023 will be the seventh and largest exercise in the US and the Philippines, with participants from Australia, Canada, France, Japan, the United Kingdom and Malaysia joining.
The exercise off the Philippine coast will include exercises on anti-submarine warfare, surface and air warfare and ground phases, the release said.
“‘Sama Sama’ is a phrase in Tagalog that means ‘together’ and there couldn’t be a better phrase to capture the spirit of this exercise,” said Commodore Capt. Sean Lewis of US Navy Destroyer Squadron 7. .
“Together we can address the spectrum of security threats and improve interoperability, and with more countries participating than ever before, we can increase innovation and create a ready, united force that can ensure stability in the region,” he said.
Stability in the region is seen as increasingly threatened by clashes between the Chinese Coast Guard Marine fighters units and Philippine ships around disputed features in the South China Sea.
“From Regional Security to Countering Transnational Crime, ‘Samasama’ [helps] We must face threats together,” said Philippine Navy Chief, Vice Adm. Toribio Addasi Jr. said during the opening ceremonies in Manila on Monday, the Philippine state-run News Agency (PNA) reported.
The US Navy, US Marine Corps and Armed Forces of the Philippines, along with partners, will begin the seventh Exercise Sama Sama on October 2 in Manila.
In Exclusive interview with CNN Last week, Philippine Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. equated Chinese behavior in the region to that of a bully in a school hall.
Recent incidents that have put the region on edge include: Chinese water cannons intercept A shipwrecked Philippine military outpost and a lone Filipino diver Cutting the floating Chinese barrier. Earlier this year, the Philippine Coast Guard accused the Chinese Coast Guard “Military-grade” laser pointing to some of its crew, temporarily blinding them
“I can’t think of any more obvious bullying,” Teodoro said. “It’s not a question of stealing your lunch money, but it’s really a question of adding your lunch bag, your chair, and school.”
03:26 – Source: CNN
Philippine president vows to protect territory, says ‘not looking for trouble’
Beijing says Manila is fueling tensions.
“The current maritime disputes between China and the Philippines are mainly caused by the Philippine side’s constant stirring up of trouble and spreading false information,” China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs told CNN.
Although a 2016 international tribunal rejected Beijing’s claim, China says Philippine ships are intruding into its territory in the Spratly Island chain.
China claims “indisputable sovereignty” over nearly all of the 1.3 million square miles of the South China Sea, most of its islands and sandbars, including many features hundreds of miles from mainland China. Along with the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei and Taiwan also have competing claims.
Sama Sama has more than 1,800 personnel from countries including the Philippines, the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, and Canada, with many participating countries. The exercises will take place in the Philippine Navy’s Southern Luzon region, headquartered on the country’s Pacific coast, about 300 miles (480 kilometers) southeast of Manila and about 560 miles (900 kilometers) from the Spratly Islands, PNA said.
The draw will be held till October 13.