ABOARD BRP CABRA, Philippines – In a show of strengthening alliances in Asia and countering China’s influence, US, Japanese, and Philippine coast guard ships carried out law enforcement drills in the disputed waters of the South China Sea on Tuesday, June 6, 2023.
Under the watchful eyes of journalists aboard the Philippine coast guard patrol boat, BRP Cabra, the drills focused on a scenario involving the interdiction and boarding of a vessel suspected of carrying weapons of mass destruction. The Philippine coast guard spokesperson, Commodore Armand Balilo, explained that the exercise took place off the Bataan Peninsula.
During the mock assault, shots were fired as heavily armed coast guard personnel swiftly boarded the vessel from a speedboat and guided the crew members toward the stern. A helicopter hovered above as US and Japanese coast guard ships collaborated in rescuing crew members who jumped off the target vessel.
Philippine coast guard deputy spokesperson, John Ybanez, emphasized that the exercises were not just for display but aimed to enhance cooperation and preparedness for potential future scenarios. He highlighted the importance of mutual assistance among the participating nations.
The United States Coast Guard deployed one of its technologically advanced cutters, the 418-foot (127-meter) Stratton, for the exercises held from June 1 to 7 in the Philippines. The Stratton has been actively engaging in regional exercises to share expertise in search and rescue operations and law enforcement, as stated by the US Coast Guard.
Capt. Brian Krautler, commanding officer of the Stratton, emphasized the significance of the trilateral engagement, stating that it provides invaluable opportunities to strengthen global maritime governance through professional exchanges and combined operations. He stressed the commitment to uphold professional and rules-based standards of maritime operations to ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific.
Alongside the US Coast Guard, Japan deployed a large coast guard ship called the Akitsushima, while four Philippine coast guard vessels participated in the exercises.
The Biden administration has been actively reinforcing military alliances in the Indo-Pacific region, including in the South China Sea, in an effort to counter China. The United States has consistently advocated for freedom of navigation and overflight and the peaceful resolution of disputes in the South China Sea, considering it to be in its national interest.
Officials from the Philippines have clarified that the joint exercises with US forces do not target any specific country. However, China has expressed concerns, cautioning that increased US security deployments in Asia undermine regional stability and affect its interests.
The US Pacific Command recently reported an incident in which a Chinese warship intercepted a US guided-missile destroyer and a Canadian frigate in the Taiwan Strait, engaging in unsafe maneuvers. Last month, a Chinese fighter aircraft performed an aggressive maneuver in front of a US Air Force reconnaissance plane over the South China Sea.
In April, Japan adopted a new ocean policy focused on strengthening maritime security, including enhancing the capability of its coast guard and improving cooperation with the military. The move was prompted by repeated intrusions by Chinese coast guard ships into Japanese territorial waters.
The Philippine coast guard has also intensified patrols in the South China Sea and has been documenting and publicizing assertive Chinese behavior in the region. This comes after an incident on February 6, when a Chinese coast guard ship directed a military-grade laser at a Philippine patrol boat, temporarily blinding crew members, near a disputed reef.
The joint law enforcement drills serve as a demonstration of solidarity among the participating countries and their commitment to maintaining peace and stability in the South China Sea.
Source – sunstar