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The meeting coincides with port visits by three of the partner navies to Manila: the landing helicopter dock ship HMAS Canberra (L02); the helicopter-carrying destroyer JS Izumo (DDH-183); and the amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA-6).
Over the weekend, the leaders from the four militaries also embarked on a U.S. Navy P-8A maritime patrol aircraft for a flight over the South China Sea. During the flight, they were able to observe the maritime environment and discuss ways to increase interoperability, preserve regional stability, and maintain a free and open Indo-Pacific.
“Our relationship with the Philippines is one of our most enduring,” Thomas said. “There’s no country more aware of the threats being posed in the South China Sea. Every nation benefits from a free and open Indo-Pacific. We will continue to strengthen our partnerships and look for more creative ways to operate together.”
During the meeting, Thomas emphasized the importance of like-minded nations working together in the air and on the sea to support a peaceful, secure and prosperous region. Further, he opened the engagement explaining he was, “honored to sail and operate side-by-side each of you here today.”
“Australia, Japan, the Philippines, United States, and the rest of the Pacific partner nations are committed to maintaining peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region while adhering to the Law of the Sea,” Thomas said. “When we operate together, we demonstrate the importance of the freedom of navigation and reinforce the prosperity of all nations who rely on these critical waterways.”