Thursday Jun 27, 201308:23 AM GMT
US, Philippines start military exercise in South China Sea
Thu Jun 27, 2013 8:22AM
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USS Bonhomme Richard


Naval forces from the Philippines and the United States have started a massive six-day joint military exercise in the South China Sea, adding to tensions with China.

 

A fleet of American naval vessels including two warships has been deployed to the region to take part in the drills which are being led by the guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald.

 

About 500 American and 500 Filipino sailors will take part in the war games which will be held from June 27 to July 2.

 

The drills will take place off the west coast of Philippines' main island of Luzon, close to Scarborough Shoal.

 

The Scarborough Shoal is a reef located in the strategically vital South China Sea which both China and the Philippines claim as their own territory.

 

However, the Philippines says China has, for more than a year, effectively occupied Scarborough Shoal where the two countries engaged in a maritime standoff last year.

 

The U.S. announced in 2011 that it would increase joint training exercises with the Philippines in order to counter China’s growing influence in the region.

 

On Thursday, the Chinese embassy in Manila released a statement warning the Philippines and the U.S. not to increase tensions in the area with their war games.

 

"We hope relevant sides should take actions that are beneficial for maintaining peace and stability in the region, not the other way around," the statement said, citing a foreign ministry spokesman in Beijing.

 

The Obama administration has been trying to encircle and contain China with a new strategy called the “Asia Pivot.”

 

The aggressive policy involves surging American military presence throughout the region, including in the Philippines, Japan, Australia, Guam, South Korea and Singapore among other countries.

 

A study last year by David Shambaugh, the director of the China Policy Program at George Washington University shows that the U.S. and China are heading toward a more strained relationship with increased mutual distrust.

 

AHT/HJ

 

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