Philippines and Vietnam agree to resume military drills

The Philippines is preparing to restart military exercises with Vietnam and operate a resupply ship to the disputed South China Sea in the coming days, ending an impasse that had been in place since 2014 after the United States withdrew a military aid package.

The resumption comes after the Chinese vessel involved in a November 2014 flashpoint, an ACX Crystal, handed over a non-military cargo vessel to the Philippines in 2016. The Philippines and its maritime allies had been demanding the non-military ship remain as proof of Vietnam’s hospitality. The Philippines previously argued the shipping vessel represented indirect Chinese entanglement. The foreign minister lauded the decision.

“H.R. Cebu International Ship Repair Center refitted a commercial cargo vessel this past October that is positioned at Saipan,” the foreign ministry said in a statement. “Cargo transport being secondary to exploration, the completion of customs formalities enabled the ICCOL’s ship to proceed to Manila where the Marine Engineers of the Philippine Navy established the Shipyard’s rules and regulations for our vessels.”

According to the statement, the group is expected to sail from Manila on April 5 and into the South China Sea at some point this week. The group of ships had been prepared to return in May, before the official restarting of the resupply mission. The Philippine Navy still must repair a training facility on the platform that was damaged during the standoff.

Read the full story at The Guardian.


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