Japan, the United States and Australia are considering sending their aircraft carrier to the Philippines for next week’s trilateral naval exercises in the South China Sea, sources familiar with the matter said Friday.
The drills planned for next Wednesday come amid heightened tensions between Beijing and Manila after a Chinese coastguard ship earlier this month fired a water cannon at a Philippine military charter near Manila’s Second Thomas Shoal in the South China Sea.
The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force has decided to send its largest destroyer, Izumo, which will become the de facto aircraft carrier after undergoing additional renovations scheduled to begin next year or 2025, according to the sources.
The Australian Navy will deploy the Canberra amphibious assault ship, while the US Navy is expected to deploy the American amphibious assault ship, the sources said.
The joint exercise is planned to include take-off and landing exercises using the three decks of the three countries’ ships.
The exercise was carried out to demonstrate the commitment of the United States and its allies in upholding freedom of navigation, according to the sources.
Izumo plans to dock next Friday in Manila, the sources said.
Philippine troops have canceled their participation in the joint drills because the other three countries’ planes are too big to land on the decks of the Philippine warships, according to the sources.
However, commanders from the four nations may gather in the Philippine capital to send a “strong message”, the sources said.
The four countries had considered conducting joint maritime patrols and naval drills, but the plans failed to reach an agreement, according to the sources.
Facing military pressure and Beijing’s increased activity in the South China Sea, Manila has so far focused on enhancing security cooperation with Tokyo, Washington and Canberra.
Japan, the United States, Australia and the Philippines previously held their first defense ministers meeting in June in Singapore. The four sides agreed to strengthen security cooperation to promote a free and open Indo-Pacific.
China, which claims almost all of the South China Sea, has been building artificial islands with military infrastructure.
Tensions between Beijing and Manila escalated when China’s coast guard in February aimed a military laser at a Philippine patrol boat in waters near the Second Thomas Shoal.
Source : Antara News