The Indian Navy participated in a joint exercise in the South China Sea with the navies of the United States, Japan and Philippines from May 2 to May 8 (May 3 to May 9 in India). The United States Navy said in a statement that the USS William P Lawrence, Indian Navy destroyer INS Kolkata, tanker INS Shakti, Japan’s helicopter-carrier JS Izumo, destroyer JS Murasame, and Philippine Navy patrol ship BRP Andres Bonifacio took part in the exercise.

The navies conducted formation exercises, communication drills, passenger transfers, and a leadership exchange on board JS Izumo. “Our team was really excited to take part in this multi-lateral event,” USS William P Lawrence Commanding Office Commodore Andrew J Klug said. “Professional engagements with our allies, partners and friends in the region are opportunities to build upon our existing, strong relationships, as well as learn from each other.”

The Indian Navy tweeted about the exercises.

The combined show of might comes at a time of heightened tensions between China and the United States, which are engaged in a trade war. The two countries also have a dispute over the South China Sea.

China and several neighbouring countries make competing claims to parts of the area. Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam all make claims to parts of the South China Sea. Beijing claims a huge area known as the “nine-dash line”, and routinely accuses the US Navy of provocation.

In October last year, United States military officials claimed that a Chinese warship harassed an American Navy vessel in the South China Sea.

In July 2016, an international tribunal in The Hague ruled in favour of the Philippines and said Beijing has no legal basis to claim “historic rights” over the South China Sea. The Permanent Court of Arbitration accused China of breaching the sovereign rights of the Philippines.