Washington, DC [US], October 3 (ANI): In the midst of escalating tensions between Manila and Beijing over territorial disputes in the South China Sea, the US military began two weeks of multilateral exercises on Monday with its Philippine allies and other foreign partners, according to CNN.
As per a US Navy news release, Sama Sama 2023 will be the sixth and largest version of the drills as participants from Australia, Canada, France, Japan, the United Kingdom, and Malaysia join the US and the Philippines in the defence exercise.
"In Tagalog 'Sama Sama' is a phrase that means 'together' and there could not be a better phrase to capture the spirit of this exercise," said Capt. Sean Lewis, commodore of the US Navy's Destroyer Squadron 7, in the official US Navy release.
"Together we can address a spectrum of security threats and enhance interoperability and with more nations participating than ever before, we can increase innovation and build a ready, united force that ensures stability in the region," he said.
Notably, it is around 1,800 personnel from the participating nations that are involved in Sama Sama, many of them onboard warships from the Philippines, the US, the UK, Japan, and Canada.
Confrontations between Philippine warships and Chinese coast guard and marine militia forces near disputed South China Sea features are considered as posing a growing danger to regional stability.
"From territorial defense to countering transnational crimes, 'Sama Sama' helps us to face an array of threats together," the chief of the Philippine Navy, Vice Adm. Toribio Adaci Jr, said at opening ceremonies in Manila on Monday, according to the state-run Philippine News Agency (PNA).
Chinese water cannons restricting supplies to a shipwrecked Philippine military station and a lone Filipino diver breaching a floating Chinese barrier are recent instances that have the region on edge.
A Chinese coast guard ship was accused by the Philippine coast guard of briefly blinding some of its personnel earlier this year with a "military grade" laser, according to CNN. Moreover, Beijing has said that it's Manila responsible for the tensions in the region.
China asserts "indisputable sovereignty" over the majority of the islands and sandbars in the 1.3 million square miles of the South China Sea, including several features that are hundreds of kilometres from the Chinese mainland. Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei, Taiwan, and the Philippines all have conflicting claims. (ANI)