Manila, Jun 7 (EFE).- The United States, Japan and the Philippines coast guards concluded Wednesday their first joint exercises that lasted a week and included drills to board ships with weapons of mass destruction in a militarized South China Sea.
The joint maneuvers, the first between the three countries, which were conducted in the Philippine territorial waters, included “simulations of anti-piracy operations and boarding of ships with weapons of mass destruction,” Philippine Coast Guard officials confirmed to EFE.
Four Filipino, one American and one Japanese ships participated in the exercises, aimed at “strengthening collaboration in rescue and law enforcement.”
These maneuvers were the prelude to the joint patrol between Washington and Manila in the South China Sea, scheduled to begin in October, and come amid growing tensions between China and the US due to Beijing’s aggression in these waters and around Taiwan.
China claims most of the sea near the Philippine western coast for historical reasons and occupies several islands of the Spratly archipelago and the Scarborough Shoal, less than 200 miles off the Philippine coast.
The territorial conflict between Beijing and Manila in the South China Sea has worsened in recent months, following recent allegations by the Philippines of the use of military lasers from Chinese ships against Philippine coastguards.
Diplomatic sources told EFE that the use of the Coast Guard – a civilian institution – to patrol and defend maritime rights in the disputed waters of the South China Sea aims to prevent an escalation of war if there is an incident between boats.
However, exercises held this week in Philippine territorial waters between the coast guards of Japan, the US and the Philippines have included drills with a clear military aspect. EFE