MANILA - In a show of military might, the United Kingdom and the United States conducted joint drills in the Philippine Sea amid tensions in the Indo-Pacific region.
According to the UK Royal Navy on Thursday (Manila time), its UK Carrier Strike Group’s warships, led by the 65,000-ton aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, was joined by the USS America-led United States Expeditionary Strike Group 7.
Three squadrons of F-35B jets were flown together by both countries over the Philippine Sea, which is part of the Western Pacific Ocean.
The joint air drills were conducted for 48 "continuous" hours, the Royal Navy said.
According to USS America's commanding officer Capt. Ken Ward, the drills showed how both countries can carry out "highly intricate and sustained flight operations to devastating lethal effect."
The Royal Navy said they were also joined by two ships from Japan’s Maritime Self Defense Force for maritime exercises.
“Conducting exercises with ships of the Japan Maritime Self Defence Force and the US Expeditionary Strike Group 7 is another milestone for HMS Queen Elizabeth," said Capt. Angus Essenhigh, commanding officer of the UK's most powerful naval ship.
“We have shown our ability to work with our allies and as we get accustomed to operating in the Indo-Pacific again these relationships will be important for all future Royal Navy ships operating in the region.”
The three countries' "demonstration of naval might in the Philippine Sea" lasted 12 days, the Royal Navy said.
“By conducting this joint exercise we have demonstrated the UK’s commitment to the Indo-Pacific – an area critical to global peace and prosperity – and the Royal Navy’s flexibility and ability to work with the UK’s allies and partners in the region," it said.
The joint military drills by the three countries came amid regional disputes between China and its regional neighbors, including the Philippines, over claims in the South China Sea.
Beijing has been ramping up militarization and island-building activities in the resource-rich South China Sea, ignoring a 2016 arbitral ruling that invalidated its expansive 9-dash line claim.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson earlier said the Royal Navy's recent and largest voyage in the Indo-Pacific in years will help project British soft power such as a belief in democracy and the rule of law.
Both the US and Japan have also voiced their protests against China's aggression in the disputed South China Sea.