US, Britain conduct joint navy drills in South China Sea amid worries about China's military power

U.S. and British navy ships conducted joint drills in the South China Sea last week in what they called a sign of their shared emphasis on regional peace and stability amid ongoing tensions with China.

The Arleigh-Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS McCampbell and Royal Navy Type 23 frigate GMS Argyll conducted operations in the South China Sea from Jan. 11 to Jan. 16, the U.S. Pacific Fleet said.

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No joint drills had been conducted in the region since 2010, officials said.

“Professional engagement with our British counterparts allows us the opportunity to build upon our existing strong relationships and learn from each other,” Cmdr. Allison Christy, the McCampbell’s commanding officer, said in the news release.

The drills included communication exercises, 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,” officials said.

The exercises came on the heels of a Pentagon report that laid out concerns about China’s growing military and worries about possible attacks on Taiwan.

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China is becoming more confident in its ability to destabilize the region with conflict, a senior defense intelligence official told the Associated Press. However, the official said it doesn’t have the military capability yet to invade Taiwan.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.