The US and British navies have joined forces for the first time in the South China Sea, risking Beijing's fury

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS McCampbell (DDG 85), the Military Sealift Command fleet replenishment oiler USNS Henry J. Kaiser (T-AO 187), and the Royal Navy Type 23 'Duke' Class guided-missile frigate HMS Argyll (F231) transit during a replenishment-at-sea.The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS McCampbell (DDG 85), the Military Sealift Command fleet replenishment oiler USNS Henry J. Kaiser (T-AO 187), and the Royal Navy Type 23 'Duke' Class guided-missile frigate HMS Argyll (F231) transit during a replenishment-at-sea.Photo by LPhot Dan Rosenbaum

  • The US and British navies wrapped up six days of joint military exercises in the South China Sea on Wednesday, according to the US Navy.
  • The drills mark the first time the two navies have conducted joint operations in the contested waterway, Reuters reported.
  • Both the US Navy and the British Royal Navy have run afoul of China in the South China Sea.

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 Wednesday.

"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.

Following a freedom-of-navigation operation carried out by the USS McCampbell near the Chinese-occupied Paracel Islands on January 7, 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.

Read More: China moves 'ship killer' missiles into firing range as US warships infuriate Beijing in the South China Sea

Last September, 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.

Read More: The Chinese military challenged a US destroyer to a South China Sea showdown

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."

Read More: A British warship got involved in a showdown with the Chinese military in the South China Sea

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