A US Navy official confirmed a plan to deploy its warships for rotational patrols in Southeast Asia as it concluded naval training exercises with Philippine forces in Palawan waters.
The week-long Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT 2015) maritime exercises between US and Philippine naval forces saw the USS Forth Worth and Philippine warships BRP Ramon Alcaraz and BRP Gregorio del Pilar sailing in the Sulu Sea.
The CARAT exercises involved the correct maneuvering of ships, search and rescue operations and gunnery exercises while a US P-3C Orion surveillance plane and the Philippines’ Islander plane flew overhead.
A highlight of the gunnery exercises was a target shooting by three warships at sea wherein the USS Forth Worth demonstrated the firing power of its MK110 57mm gun which discharges 220 rounds per minute at a target some 17 kilometers away.
A US Navy offiial said this type of exercises is the appropriate solution for problems in the sea.
“Regional challenges demand regional solutions. The ability to go to sea and get to know each other and learn how each other operate is very very important,” US Navy Capt. Fred Kacher, commander of Destroyer Squadron 7, said.
The US Navy admitted that it plans to enhance its forces in Southeast Asia including the deployment of four warships to patrol the region.
“The ships don’t have to come from somewhere if there’s a challenge. They are already here. So that’s something we are very pleased with, and I think that speaks to how important the United States Navy and the US government use this region … this ship and ships like it is really the future of engagement for the US Navy in Southeast Asia,” Kacher added.
Besides the US, the Japanese navy also conducted maritime training with Philippine troops in Palawan, an action which displeased China.
Malacanang however defended the holding of military exercises with the US and Japanese forces.
“We cannot be faulted if other countries have lauded the approach that we have decided to take in resolving this dispute that we have with our neighbor,” said deputy presidential spokesperson Underscretary Abigail Valte.
Philippine officials said the military exercises, whether with the US or Japan, were not meant to make a show of force against nations with overlapping claims over islands in the West Philippine Sea.
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