The US and British navies have conducted their first joint military drills in the South China Sea, where a rising China is tightening its grip.
The US Navy Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS McCampbell and the Royal Navy frigate HMS Argyll have spent the past six days training together in the South China Sea.
Their mission was to address “common maritime security priorities, enhance interoperability, and develop relationships that will benefit both navies for many years to come,” the US Navy said in a press statement Jan. 16, 2019.
“We are pleased with the opportunity to train alongside our closest ally,” Cmdr. Toby Shaughnessy, the commanding officer of the Argyll, said.
The exercise follows an earlier trilateral drill in the Philippine Sea focused on anti-submarine warfare and involving the US Navy, Royal Navy, and Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force.
Both the US and British navies have run afoul of Beijing in the contested waterway.
The guided-missile destroyer USS McCampbell.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication 1st Class Bobbie G. Attaway)
Following a freedom-of-navigation operation carried out by the USS McCampbell near the Chinese-occupied Paracel Islands on Jan. 7, 2019, Beijing accused the US of trespassing in Chinese waters.
The following day, Chinese media warned that the Chinese military had deployed “far-reaching, anti-ship ballistic missiles” capable of targeting “medium and large ships” in the South China Sea.
In September 2018, a Chinese warship challenged the destroyer USS Decatur during a FONOP in the Spratlys, nearly colliding with the American vessel and risking a potentially deadly conflict.
Earlier that same month, the Chinese military confronted the Royal Navy amphibious assault ship HMS Albion when it sailed close to the Paracel Islands.
China sharply criticized the British ship, asserting that the vessel “violated Chinese law and relevant international law and infringed on China’s sovereignty.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.