Philippines, allies kick off naval drills
Forces from Manila, Britain, Canada, Japan and the United States kicked off for two weeks of joint naval exercises in Philippine waters as a "show of force", amid flaring regional tension.
With more than 1,800 participants, the drills follow last week's move by Beijing to block Philippine fishermen from Asia's most contested maritime feature, the Scarborough Shoal, held by China in the South China Sea.
This year's "Sama Sama" drills are being held in the southern part of the island of Luzon, featuring naval exercises in areas such as anti-submarine warfare, air defence and search and rescue.
"With this show of force and active engagement of our allies and partners, 'Sama Sama' transcends mere military exercises," Philippine navy chief Rear Admiral Toribio Adaci said at the opening event.
In his remarks, Vice Admiral Karl Thomas, the commander of the U.S. Navy's Seventh Fleet, said, "It is important that all nations have a right to sail and operate in the West Philippine Sea, free from ... being coerced, free from being intimidated."
The West Philippine Sea refers to the portion of the South China Sea claimed by Manila.