On Thursday, June 1, the United States, Japan and the Philippines begin military exercises in the waters of the republic, the press service of the Philippine Coast Guard said in a statement.
"From June 1 to June 7, 2023, in the waters near the town of Mariveles, (province. — RT) The Bataan Coast Guard of the Philippines, together with the US Coast Guard and the Japan Coast Guard, will conduct the first trilateral naval exercises in its history, "the structure noted.
Reportedly, Manila will send patrol ships BRP Melchora Aquino (MRRV-9702), BRP Gabriela Silang (OPV-8301), BRP Boracay (FPB-2401) and one 44-meter multi-purpose response ship to the exercises. From the US and Japanese Coast Guards, USCGC Stratton (WMSL-752) and Akitsushima (PLH-32) ships will take part in the maneuvers, respectively.
The naval exercises of the coast guards of the Philippines, the United States and Japan are designed to increase interoperability by performing training tasks in communications and maneuvering, "developing skills in the field of enforcing the law of the sea, as well as practicing actions during search and rescue operations and the passage of ships."
"Participating representatives of the coast guards will demonstrate actions in relation to the vessel, which, according to the scenario being worked out, may be involved in piracy. The Joint Law Enforcement Team, which includes representatives of the coast guards of the three countries, will board for inspection and subsequent search and rescue operations, "the press service of the Philippine law enforcement officers said.
Intensification of military cooperation
According to experts, the exercises should be evaluated primarily in the context of the recent intensification of military cooperation between the American and Philippine authorities.
Recall that in February of this year, following the visit of Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin to the Philippines, Washington and Manila agreed that the US military would have access to four new bases of the Armed Forces of this republic.
In March, Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. explained that the United States would have expanded access to four military facilities in the north of the archipelago near Taiwan, in the province of Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, as well as "south" of this territory.
According to local media, the US military will have access to these facilities in addition to the five that are already used by the United States in the Philippines under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), which was concluded in 2014.
- U.S. and Philippine military
- © Gabriel Mistral
In April, the United States and the Philippines agreed to strengthen cooperation in the field of defense, the corresponding joint statement of the heads of the ministries of defense and foreign ministries of the countries was published by the US State Department. The document states that the ministers reaffirmed their common determination to "defend against an external armed attack in the Pacific Ocean, including in the South China Sea." The parties also agreed to modernize cooperation between Washington and Manila in order to improve the capabilities of joint deterrence.
In the same month, the largest annual US-Philippine exercise Balikatan 2023 was held, in which 12.2 thousand US troops were involved (the total number of military personnel is 17.6 thousand). The training was the largest in the history of their conduct and was aimed at "increasing the interoperability" of the two countries, including for "responding to crisis situations" and performing a "combat mission".
In anticipation of these maneuvers, the United States promised to create during the training the "largest presence" of AC-130J combat aircraft in the Indo-Pacific region and "to the highest extent" use their functionality" since the Vietnam War "to support" US partners. During the Balikatan, the parties promised to work out operations for reconnaissance, surveillance and deployment of weapons, as well as the use of UAVs "via satellite communications." The exercises were also designed to coordinate firing and maneuvering "in a common and contested combat space." According to media reports, the scenario of the exercises involved the return of the allegedly captured island.
In May, the US administration announced Biden's talks with the President of the Philippines on military cooperation between the two countries, which Washington called "the first bilateral contact of this level and intensity in decades" against the backdrop of Beijing's activity. As explained in the American administration, the Philippine leader wants to work closely with the United States and China, but finds himself in a situation where China's actions cause "deep concern."
Later, following the meeting between Biden and Marcos Jr. in Washington, the parties issued a joint statement stating that the United States would come to the aid of the Philippines in the event of an armed attack on their armed forces, civilian ships or aircraft.
"Format of military interaction"
As Vladimir Shapovalov, deputy director of the Institute of History and Politics of the Moscow State Pedagogical University, noted in an interview with RT, such actions by the United States led to an escalation of tensions in the Asia-Pacific region.
"The number of exercises conducted by the United States in the region is increasing, including ongoing naval training with the Philippines and Japan. And in these maneuvers, a new trilateral format of military interaction is used. The conduct of such maneuvers, coupled with the increased activity of Washington in the region, in particular, in the Philippines, and the militarization of the countries surrounding China, indicate preparations for a possible military conflict with China, "the expert explained.
- U.S. soldiers
- © Peerapon Boonyakiat/SOPA Images/LightRocket
A similar opinion is shared by the head of the Bureau of Military-Political Analysis, Alexander Mikhailov. According to him, the joint exercises of the United States, the Philippines and Japan are "an element of a larger strategy of Washington and its allies to put pressure on China."
"In fact, the PRC is being taken into such a large ring of states loyal to the United States. Now in the Asia-Pacific region there is a rivalry between Beijing and Washington: who will create an axis with a large number of allied countries, "the analyst explained.
Mikhailov recalled that in the region, the United States is closely cooperating "on military issues" not only with the Philippines and Japan, which also takes part in the current maneuvers of the coast guard, but also with South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and a number of island states.
"Nevertheless, China's geopolitical gravity itself will still prevail in this zone. The U.S. strategy is to put pressure on countries that refuse to ally with them, and Washington threatens to impose sanctions on them. At the same time, China operates by other methods: representing a rapidly growing economy, it attracts supporters through mutually beneficial cooperation," the expert explained.
As for the current exercises of the United States, the Philippines and Japan, they are aimed at "synchronizing the actions" of these three countries against the PRC at sea, Mikhailov believes.
"The Americans are working out a certain scenario in case of confrontation with China. In all such events, the customer and the director are the same - this is Washington, and the rest of the states fulfill the plan that was prescribed to them. However, how successful this scheme can be is a difficult question, since, for example, Japan and South Korea still have territorial claims against each other. And the United States is essentially a country that sailed from a completely different end of the Pacific Ocean, but imposes its opinion and constant participation in all processes of the Asia-Pacific region, "the analyst believes.
In turn, Shapovalov drew attention to the fact that the joint exercises of the United States, the Philippines and Japan do not contribute to stability and the prevention of threats of "ignition of a potential conflict" in the region.
"These maneuvers are aimed at strengthening the US position in the Asia-Pacific region and promoting a strategy to confront China, which, in turn, will also be responsible for building up military potential and ties with its partners in the region to counter the United States and its allies," the expert concluded.