Participating in joint drills in the South China Sea are the U.S. guided-missile destroyer USS McCampbell (L), the replenishment oiler USNS Henry J. Kaiser (C) and the Royal Navy frigate HMS Argyll. Photo by Dan Rosenbaum/British Royal Navy
Jan. 17 (UPI) -- The United States and Britain sailed together for six days in rare joint drills between the two nations in the South China Sea.
The Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS McCampbell and Royal Navy Type 23 frigate HMS Argyll ended their operations Wednesday, the U.S. Navy said in a news release. They were joined by the U.S. replenishment oiler USNS Henry J. Kaiser.
"We routinely train with regional allies and partners, but it is a rare opportunity for my team to work with the Royal Navy," said Cmdr. Allison Christy, the McCampbell's commanding officer, said in a news release. "Professional engagement with our British counterparts allows us the opportunity to build upon our existing strong relationships and learn from each other."
McCampbell and Argyll conducted communication drills, division tactics and "a personnel exchange designed to address common maritime security priorities, enhance interoperability, and develop relationships that will benefit both navies for many years to come," the Navy said in the release.
''Following on from our successful time in North East Asia, whee we've been contributing to promoting regional security and prosperity, we are pleased with the opportunity to train alongside our closest ally," Cmdr. Toby Shaughnessy, the Argyll's commanding officer, said in a Royal Navy release.
The McCampbell has been deployed to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations in support of security and stability in the Indo-Pacific region. The Argyll also has been deployed to the region to support security and stability.
The Argyll, after spending Christmas just outside Tokyo in the U.S. Navy's Seventh Fleet home of Yokosuka, began the first homeward leg of her nine-month Asia-Pacific deployment and return to Plymouth in March, according to the Royal Navy.
On Dec. 21 and 22, the British ship conducted a "hunt" with the Japanese helicopter carrier Izumo in search of an American nuclear submarine lurking in waters off Japan.
Earlier this month, Beijing was upset that the McCampbell sailed within 12 nautical miles of Chinese-claimed territory in the Paracel Islands.
The Chinese foreign ministry accused the United States of trespassing in its territorial waters. Beijing on Jan. 8 deployed DF-26 ballistic missiles to China's remote northwest plateau "capable of targeting medium and large ships," according to Chinese state media CCTV.
Although several countries claim territory in the South China Sea region, Beijing has beefed up its military presence with militarized artificial islands capable of hosting missiles and bombers.