TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – The United States and the Philippines have reportedly been holding joint military exercises in the South China Sea close to the disputed Scarborough Shoal, currently occupied by China.
The drills which have been named the “Kamandag” exercises, began on Oct. 2. LTN reports that on Oct. 6, the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) also sent a humanitarian relief vessel to the region to join the Philippine and the U.S. Navy forces.
The exercises reportedly involved 1,000 U.S. servicemen and 350 servicemen from the Philippines. The Japanese contingent joining on Oct. 6 numbered 100 JMSDF personnel according to the Liberty Times.
A spokesman for the Japanese SDF said that this is the first time since World War II that Japanese military forces have landed armored vehicles on foreign territory. Half of the Japanese forces were outfitted in military camouflage, although they did not carry weapons, according to the LTN report.
The Kamandag exercises reportedly simulated a joint amphibious assault on Philippine territory with an objective of recapturing a military base occupied by terrorist forces.
After the initial exercise involving the U.S. Navy and Armed Forces of the Philippines and the recapture of the territory, the Japanese forces conducted a simulated rescue operation, retrieving injured soldiers from the beaches and sparse woodlands.
The exercises were reportedly carried out along the coast of the West Luzon, within 250 kilometers of the Scarborough Shoal, which hosts a Chinese military base.
The start date of the exercises was only four days after the Philippine military chief, Gen. Carlito Galvez, and U.S. Indo-Pacific commander, Adm. Philip Davidson, led an annual meeting of the allied forces in Manila on Sept. 28, where they announced that the two countries would increase the number of joint military activities held annually.
The naval exercises also came on the heels of a U.S. destroyer, the Decatur, nearly colliding with a Chinese PLAN destroyer on Sept. 30, which some observers suggest, may be responsible for China’s abrupt cancellation of a high level security dialogue in Beijing with U.S. officials that had been planned for mid-October.
Just two days after the Kamandag Exercises had already begun, the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Fleet announced to international media that they had developed plans for show of force in Taiwan Strait, as well as the South China Sea.
Japanese media also recently reported that in Japan, the SDF has been conducting joint training exercises (Sept. 30 - Oct. 12) in Shizuoka and Yamanashi Prefectures with a contingent from the British Royal Army, for the first time in history, reports LTN.