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A handout picture released by the Philippine Navy Public Affairs Office shows the arrival of the Japanese navy (back) at Manila South harbor, Philippines on May 9, 2015.
MANILA (REUTERS) – The Philippines and Japan held their first joint naval exercises in the South China Sea on Tuesday, while Japan’s coastguard works with Vietnam this week, as Tokyo boosts maritime ties with two nations at odds with Beijing over the disputed waterway.
Japan’s cooperation follows a speech last year by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe vowing to help Southeast Asia maintain freedom of navigation and overflight in the region.
The training also comes amid international criticism of China’s reclamation around seven reefs in the Spratly chain of the South China Sea and concerns of U.S. and Philippine military officials that Beijing might eventually try to impose an exclusion zone over the disputed territory.
Two Japanese destroyers and a Philippine warship…
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