Japan, US, Aus to conduct joint naval drills in S China Sea

Tokyo, (UNI) Japan, the United States and Australia will conduct joint naval exercises in the South China Sea on August 23, Japanese news agency Kyodo reported on Friday, citing sources.

Major vessels of the Japan Self-Defense Forces, the US Navy and the Royal Australian Navy will be stationed near the Philippines, the report said. Japan plans to send its largest destroyer, the Izumo, which is being converted into a de facto aircraft carrier, the sources added.

The exercises are reportedly aimed at monitoring Chinese vessels.

A timeframe for the drills has not yet been set.

The exercises come amid escalating tensions between China and the Philippines after a Chinese coast guard vessel fired a water cannon at a smaller Philippine boat on August 5, preventing it from carrying out a resupply mission, the news agency said.

On August 6, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) strongly condemned the Chinese coast guard’s “dangerous maneuvers and illegal use of water cannons against the PCG vessels” near Ayungin Shoal, also known as Second Thomas Shoal. The Chinese coast guard fired back, saying that two cargo ships and two PCG vessels entered the territorial waters of the Nansha (Spratly) Islands without China’s permission, adding that Beijing has indisputable sovereignty over the Nansha Islands and adjacent waters.

The reef, known as Ren’ai Jiao in China and Ayungin Shoal in the Philippines, is part of the disputed Spratly Islands, a large archipelago to which China and several other Asian nations lay rival claims. The Philippines grounded a naval transport ship, the BRP Sierra Madre, on the reef in 1999 to house a contingent of marines.

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