US, UK hold second South China Sea joint drills in 2 months


MANILA, Philippines — For the second time this year, the American and British navies recently concluded maritime security drills in the South China Sea.

The US Navy deployed replenishment oiler USNS Guadalupe while the Royal Navy deployed frigate HMS Montrose last February 18 for a maritime security and logistics training.

Last January, the US Navy’s guided missile destroyer USS McCampbell and the Royal Navy’s frigate HMS Argyll also conducted joint drills in the disputed waterway.

In the latest exercises, the British and American troops participated in a visit, board, search and seizure scenario where the Montrose team embarked and secured Guadalupe, which was acting as a vessel engaged in high seas trafficking, according to a report from the US Pacific Fleet.

The Montrose and the Guadalupe also simulated replenishment at sea, ensuring safe and efficient fuel transfer despite never having worked together before. The two ships followed the procedures of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Cmdr. Conor O’Neill, commanding officer of HMS Montrose, said the recent exercise was valuable for the Royal Navy and Royal Marines.

“That we were able to achieve this training, and the replenishment drills afterwards, is testament to the close working relationship between the Royal and United States navies, both in the Pacific and globally,” O’Neill said.

Eric Nanjo, civilian mariner chief mate aboard USNS Guadalupe, said the drills helped both parties expand their capabilities.

“It’s important because if you don’t practice these scenarios, you won’t have the skills necessary to succeed when the time comes,” Nanjo said.

Aside from the previous joint exercises in January, the US Navy and the Royal Navy, along with the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force, also worked together in a trilateral anti-submarine warfare in December.

The joint exercises between the US and UK navies came after the declaration of US Indo-Pacific Command commander Adm. Philip Davison that allies and partners will be included in Washington’s future operations in the South China Sea.

“We’ve had allies and partners in the region — the UK, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, France, all in one form or another step up their operations in the South China Sea and I think that shows the international community’s willingness to push back,” Davidson told the US Senate earlier this month.

Davidson warned that China has veen working to expand its “form of ideology” in the region through fear and coercion. Beijing has been claiming almost the entire South China Sea, part of which is the West Philippine Sea.

“In its place, Beijing seeks to create a new order, one with Chinese characteristics, led by China, an outcome that displaces the stability and peace in the Indo-Pacific that has endured for over 70 years,” Davidson said.