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Iran Press TV

US, Philippines kick off military drills near S China Sea

Iran Press TV

Thu Jun 9, 2016 4:0PM

The United States and the Philippines have kicked off this year's annual Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) joint military exercises.

The CARAT Philippines 2016, which started this week and will end on June 10, sees US Navy and Marine Corps conduct exercise missions with the Armed Forces of the Philippines in multiple locations across the Southeast Asian country and in waters near Subic Bay and Palawan, near the disputed South China Sea.

The year's war games focus on combined operations at sea, amphibious landings, diving and salvage, maritime domain awareness, and community service events, said the US Navy's Task Force 37, which belongs to the Seventh Fleet and coordinates exercises for Southeast Asia.

In addition to military engagements, the two navies will also engage in professional exchanges, training seminars, as well as civic action projects and other cultural activities, the task force noted.

The guided missile destroyer USS Stethem, the landing dock ship USS Ashland, and the diving and salvage ship USNS Salvor are among the American gear participating in the exercises.

The forces are being accompanied by a US P-8 or Poseidon spy aircraft, known as the Pentagon's most effective submarine hunting weapon.

Philippine Navy assets and units included in the drill involve the Minesweeper Frigate BRP Rizal, the BRP Gregorio Del Pilar frigate, a Landing Craft Heavy vessel and a lightweight AW109 helicopter.

CARAT is part of US Navy's joint naval exercises with nine partners in South and Southeast Asia – Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Timor-Leste–which began in 1995.

CARAT Philippines, described by officials as the most complex drill so far, comes days after CARAT Malaysia which kicked off the series on June 1.

Additional phases of CARAT will occur through November this year.

The war games are expected to prompt reactions from China, which claims sovereignty over most of the South China Sea.

There have been growing disputes between China and its neighbors, including Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam, that lay claim to some parts of South China Sea.

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