Two Japanese warships arrived in the Philippines on Saturday to take part in the first naval drill between the two countries in the disputed South China Sea.
The May 12 maritime safety exercise in the South China Sea near a disputed shoal claimed by China, which will practice the code for unplanned encounters at sea, known as CUES, is part of an agreement signed by Japan and the Philippines in January aimed at tightening security cooperation.
State-run Philippines News Agency reported the Philippine Navy and the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force will hold exercises off the waters of Subic Bay, Zambales and Corregidor Island on May 12.
It quoted Navy public affairs office chief Cmdr. Lued Lincuna as saying the two sides will conduct a "Passez" or passing exercises to apply the "code of unplanned encounters at sea" via radio.
The Japanese destroyers Harusame and Amigiri, carrying a total of about 600 sailors, will take part in a passing exercise with Philippine Navy frigate Ramon Alcaraz and a helicopter aboard it, said Commander Lincuna.
Lincuna said the Philippine Navy will use the BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF-16) while the JMSDF will use a still unnamed naval vessel.
Reuters say that the nature of the training is unlikely to worry China unduly, as it has conducted similar exercises with the United States in the past.
But the presence of Japanese naval vessels in the South China Sea signals
Japan’s growing interest in the region, and may irritate Beijing as criticism of its land reclamation projects there mounts.
The two-hour practice within Philippine territorial waters near Subic Bay, a former US navy base, will involve a Japanese warship and a Philippines navy frigate, a spokesman at the Philippines Navy said.
The Philippines and China have accused each other of conducting illegal reclamation and construction activities in the territories. China claims
the entire South China
Sea, while the Philipines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan claim some territories in the area.