In this April 5, 219 photo, the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1) maneuvers alongside the Philippine Navy offshore patrol vessel BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PS 16) in support of Exercise Balikatan 2019.
US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Barker
Navy ships sail alongside US warship in South China Sea
(Philstar.com) - April 8, 2019 - 4:17pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Navy showcased its assets as part of the annual Balikatan exercises by sailing through the South China Sea , alongside the United States Navy.

Photos released by the US Navy show the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp sailing alongside the Philippine Navy's landing platform dock BRP Tarlac and offshore patrol vessel BRP Ramon Alcaraz in the contested waterway.

The Philippines and the US launched the 35th iteration of the Balikatan exercises last week, with an estimated 7,000 soldiers participating.

In this April 5, 219 photo, the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1) (center) maneuvers alongside the Philippine Navy landing platform dock BRP Tarlac (LD 601) and offshore patrol vessel BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PS 16) in support of Exercise Balikatan 2019. US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Barker
In this April 5, 219 photo, the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1) (center) maneuvers alongside the Philippine Navy landing platform dock BRP Tarlac (LD 601) and offshore patrol vessel BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PS 16) in support of Exercise Balikatan 2019. US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Barker
In this April 5, 219 photo, the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1) (left) maneuvers alongside the Philippine Navy offshore patrol vessel BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PS 16) and landing platform dock BRP Tarlac (LD 601) in support of Exercise Balikatan 2019. US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Barker
An F-35B Lightning II aircraft assigned to Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 121 takes off from the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1) during an air defense exercise with Philippine Air Force FA-50s in international airspace in support of Exercise Balikatan 2019. US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Benjamin F. Davella III
Aviation Boatswain’s Mate Handling Airman Diego RodriguezSoto, from Longmont, Colorado, directs personnel on the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1) as Wasp transits alongside the Philippine Navy offshore patrol vessel BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PS 16) in support of Exercise Balikatan 2019. US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Barker
An F-35B Lightning II aircraft, assigned to Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 121, takes off from the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1) in international airspace during an air defense exercise with Philippine Air Force FA-50s in support of Exercise Balikatan 2019. US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Barker

This year's military exercises brings together about 4,000 soldiers from the Armed Forces of the Philippines, 3,500 American troops and some 50 Australian soldiers.

Balikatan organizers earlier announced that this would be the first time that the USS Wasp, together with the US Marine Corps' F35B Lightning II aircraftm, will be used for the Balikatan.

The joint military exercises, which will run until April 12, will involve "amphibious operations, live-fire training, urban operations, aviation operations and counterterrorism response." 

During US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo's visit to Manila last month, he assured the Philippines that any armed encounter in the South China Sea would trigger the Mutual Defense Treaty between the Philippines and the US.

"We remain committed to supporting not only the Philippines in that effort and the Philippines will need to do its part as well but all the countries in the region so that these incredibly vital economic sea lanes are open and China does not pose a threat to closing them down," Pompeo said. — Patricia Lourdes Viray

BALIKATAN BRP RAMON ALCARAZ BRP TARLAC PHILIPPINE NAVY SOUTH CHINA SEA US NAVY US-PHILIPPINES TIES USS WASP WEST PHILIPPINE SEA
As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: April 1, 2019 - 10:21am

The Philippines and the US kick off on Monday the annual Balikatan military exercises meant to improve interoperability among Filipino and American troops.

In 2017, the Balikatan exercises focused on Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Response drills, including a simulated relief operation from the sea and the air.

Gen. Benjamin Madrigal, Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff, says 2019 Balikatan has scaled up exercises focused on territorial defense but Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay, Balikatan director for the Philippine side, stresses these are "generic" exercises and not directed a specific threat in an ongoing dispute over the West Philippine Sea.

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