US, allies announce new drills near South China Sea
Iran Press TV
Thu Mar 3, 2016 5:38PM
The US has announced an upcoming joint military exercise with India and Japan in the Philippine Sea, close to the Chinese territorial waters in the South and East China Seas where Beijing and Washington have been locked in a heated standoff.
The war game is part of a broader annual event between American and Indian naval forces since 2014 and has expanded to include Japan ever since, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.
Speaking at a news conference in the Indian capital city of New Delhi on Wednesday, US Pacific Commander Admiral Harry Harris said this year's exercises- dubbed Malabar – will be held "in the northern part of the Philippine Sea."
Harris welcomed Japan's participation, saying "I think including another high-end military power like Japan in Malabar increases the complexities and allows India and US to work with Japanese.'
He noted that annually up to $5.3 trillion's worth of maritime trade passes through the Indian Ocean and South China Sea, and the exercises are crucial to make sure the region will remain secure.
'How Indo-Asia-Pacific nations employ naval forces to support these economic interests matters greatly,' he said.
Washington has ratcheted up its warnings against what it calls China's growing "militarization" of the South China Sea, over most of which Beijing claims sovereignty.
Beijing, however, has dismissed those warnings, saying that its recent military deployments in the South China Sea are no different from that of the US in Hawaii.
The US has also expressed concern over China's construction of artificial islands in the disputed waters, accusing the East Asian country of conducting a "land reclamation" program there.
US military warships have sailed within nautical miles of a Chinese island several times. Advanced US spy planes have also been deployed to air bases in the neighboring countries.
Beijing accuses Washington of meddling in the regional issues and deliberately stirring up tensions in the South China Sea.
Apart from China, countries such as Vietnam, Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Brunei have also raised territorial claims over the sea.
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