Philippines, US, Japan and India conduct first joint maritime drills

Vessels from the US Navy, Indian Navy, Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and the Philippine Navy sail in formation at sea. (File/Reuters)
Updated 10 May 2019

Philippines, US, Japan and India conduct first joint maritime drills

  • The four countries sailed together for the first time in the South China Sea
  • The joint exercise aims to strengthen partnerships between the four nations

MANILA: Naval vessels from the Philippines, America, India and Japan have sailed together through the South China Sea for the first time in a week-long joint maritime drill against a backdrop of rising tensions over territorial disputes in the region.

Six ships from the four countries — the US guided-missile destroyer USS William P. Lawrence, Philippine patrol ship BRP Andres Bonifacio, Indian destroyer INS Kolkata and tanker INS Shakti, and Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) helicopter-carrier JS Izumo and destroyer JS Murasame — transited through international waters May 2 to 8 in a bid to promote maritime cooperation throughout a free and open Indo-Pacific.

“This combined transit exercise aims to strengthen the partnership and foster mutual understanding between participants,” the Philippine Navy said an emailed statement.

“The group sail showed the active participation of the Philippine Navy as it strengthens its relationships with allies and partners in the Asia-Pacific region. This gives us another opportunity to learn from like-minded navies,” said Captain Roy Vincent Trinidad of the Philippine Navy.

The commanding officer of BRP Andres Bonifacio, Capt. Jerry Garrido Jr., said: “Our bond of friendship with regional partners is as strong as our commitment to maintain peace and stability in the region.”

The naval drills came after the Philippines’ participation in the first phase of the ASEAN-Plus Defense Ministers’ Meeting Maritime Security Field Training Exercise 2019 in Busan, Republic of Korea. Ships from the four countries transited international waters to Changi, Singapore where the second phase of the exercise will conclude.

As they crossed the South China Sea, the ships conducted formation exercises, communication drills, passenger transfers, and held a leadership exchange aboard JS Izumo.

Rear Adm. Hiroshi Egawa, JMSDF Escort Flotilla Division One Commander, said the opportunity of a combined transit exercise with the US Navy and regional partners would “build mutual understanding and trust” and serve as a way to enhance regional peace and stability.

“The ability to do various exercises (with) four different navies smoothly demonstrated (our) professionalism and high operational skills,” he said.

An official statement from the Indian Navy said the group sail was intended to “enhance maritime cooperation, synergize maritime engagements, share best practices and standardize operating procedures.”

Days prior to the exercise, the USS William P. Lawrence, along with another US Navy ship, the USS Stethem, sailed the Taiwan Straits, a move which provoked anger in China, which also denounced the sailing for two US warships close to the disputed Spratly Islands earlier this week.


US coronavirus death toll tops 100,000

Updated 28 May 2020

US coronavirus death toll tops 100,000

  • Nearly 1.7 million infections have been tallied nationwide

WASHINGTON:: The United States has now recorded more than 100,000 coronavirus-related deaths, Johns Hopkins University reported Wednesday — a somber milestone and by far the highest total in the world.
The country reported its first death about three months ago. Since then, nearly 1.7 million infections have been tallied nationwide, according to the Baltimore-based school.
The actual number of deaths and infections is believed to be higher, experts say.
In the last 24 hours, the death toll was on the rise once again, with 1,401 deaths added, after three straight days of tolls under 700. The full death toll stood at 100,396.
The state of New York has seen nearly a third of all coronavirus-related deaths in the United States, where President Donald Trump ordered that flags fly at half-staff last weekend to honor the victims.
The first US virus death was reported on February 26, though officials now say they believe that others may have died of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, before that.
The country passed the 50,000-death threshold barely more than a month ago.
The number of deaths per capita in the United States is nevertheless lower than in several European countries, including Britain, Belgium, France, Italy and Spain.
Despite the grim toll, most US states are now moving toward ending the strict stay-at-home measures that were implemented to curb the spread of the virus.
President Donald Trump, who is running for reelection in November, is eager to stem the economic pain of the lockdown, which has left tens of millions of Americans without jobs.