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NEWS | Aug. 30, 2023

Multinational defense leaders meet in Manila, talk ‘free, open’ Indo-Pacific

By Petty Officer 1st Class Reymundo Villegas Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet

Military leaders from Australia, Japan, the Philippines, and United States joined in Manila to further grow the cooperation that exists between the four nations, August 26-27.

Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet Vice Adm. Karl Thomas met with Australian Defence Force Chief of Joint Operations Lt. Gen. Greg Bilton; Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force Commander-in-Chief Self-Defense Fleet Vice Adm. SAITO Akira; Philippine Navy Flag Officer in Command Vice Adm. Toribio Adaci; Philippine Fleet Commander Rear Adm. Renato David; Naval Air Wing Commander of the Philippine Navy Commodore Juario Marayag; and Commander of the Philippine Air Force’s Tactical Operations Wing West Brig. Gen. Erick Quijada Escarcha.

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.” 

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