The US and the UK on Wednesday finished a joint six-day drill in the South China Sea, a move that is likely to stoke anger in China as it claims a large area of the contested sea as its territory, the media reported. The US military announced in a statement cited by CNN that the guided-missile destroyer USS McCampbell and the Royal Navy frigate HMS Argyll conducted operations in the South China Sea between January 11 and 16. The drills came less than a week after Beijing reacted furiously to the USS McCampbell sailing within 12 nautical miles of Chinese-claimed territory in the Paracel Islands. The Chinese Foreign Ministry that time accused Washington of trespassing in its territorial waters. The two vessels conducted communications drills, division tactics and a personnel exchange during the week to help "develop relationships" between the two navies, according to the US military statement.
"Professional engagement with our British counterparts allows us the opportunity to build upon our existing strong relationships and learn from each other," US Commander Allison Christy said, adding it was a "rare opportunity" to work with the UK Navy. The release said the Argyll was deployed to the region to "support ... regional security and stability." Both the US and the UK conducted anti-submarine warfare drills with the Japanese military in the region in December. At least five countries - the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei - have overlapping claims in the highly-strategic waters. But Beijing has reinforced its wide-ranging claims with militarized artificial islands which are capable of hosting missiles and bombers.
(With inputs from agencies.)