US, Japanese, Indian, Philippines warships sail in South China Sea

US Navy ship USS William P. Lawrence joined ships from the Indian Navy, Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, and Republic of Philippine Navy to sail through the South China Sea between May 2 and 8.

JMSDF photo of the group underway in the South China Sea

As the USS William P. Lawrence sailed with allies, the guided-missile destroyer’s sister ships USS Preble and USS Chung Hoon on May 6 conducted a freedom of navigation operation, sailing within 12 nautical miles of reefs in the Spratly Islands in order to challenge excessive maritime claims.

Transiting through international waters in the separate maneuver were USS William P. Lawrence (DDG 110), Indian Navy destroyer INS Kolkata (D 63) and tanker INS Shakti (A 57), JMSDF helicopter-carrier JS Izumo (DDH 183) and destroyer JS Murasame (DD 101), and Philippine Navy patrol ship BRP Andres Bonifacio (PS 17).

The ships conducted formation exercises, communication drills, passenger transfers and held a leadership exchange aboard JS Izumo.

“Our team was really excited to take part in this multi-lateral event,” said Cmdr. Andrew J. Klug, commanding officer, USS William P. Lawrence. “Professional engagements with our allies, partners and friends in the region are opportunities to build upon our existing, strong relationships, as well as learn from each other.”

“The opportunity of a multi-sail with US Navy and regional partners was a great experience. In addition to building mutual understanding and trust, it also served as a way to enhance peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region,” said Rear Adm. Hiroshi Egawa, commander, Escort Flotilla 1. “The ability to do various exercises among four different navies smoothly demonstrated professionalism and high operational skills.”