US destroyer with guided missiles maneuvered with a Japanese aircraft carrier, two Indian naval vessels and a Philippine patrol ship in the disputed South China Sea, the US Navy said Thursday.
This came in the latest review of maritime power in the waterway, which China is demanding sovereignty over.
Although similar maneuvers have taken place in the South China Sea, the four-nation joint offered a new challenge to Beijing, same time when US President Donald Trump is threatening to raise tariffs on Chinese goods worth 200 billion dollars.
“Professional engagements with our allies, partners and friends in the region are opportunities to build upon our existing, strong relationships,” Commander Andrew J. Klug, the captain of the U.S. destroyer, the USS William P. Lawrence, said in a statement.
Japan sent the aircraft carrier (Izumu), one of its two large aircraft carriers, while India has sent the destroyer INS Kolkata and the carrier INS Shakti.
The week-long joint exercise ended on Wednesday after two other US warships sailed near islands in the region claimed by China, prompting Beijing to protest, saying the measure violated its sovereignty.
The US Navy says it conducts operations for free navigation in international waters around the world, even in waters claimed by Washington’s allies for sovereignty, without political considerations.
Beijing claims sovereignty over the almost strategic South China Sea, while Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam demand sovereignty over parts of the maritime zone.
The United States, Japan or India have no claim to sovereignty over any areas in the region.