The US and the EU concluded their first-ever joint naval exercises on Friday as the Western powers are stepping up military cooperation that is aimed at China.
While most EU members are NATO allies of the US, this marks the first time the US formally conducted joint naval drills with vessels operating as part of an EU force. An American guided-missile destroyer participated in the drills with one Spanish ship and one Italian vessel.
The Spanish and Italian ships that participated are part of the EU’s Naval Force Operation Atalanta, an anti-piracy mission that operates off the horn of Africa and in the Western Indian Ocean. The location of the drills, which took place on Thursday and Friday, was not disclosed.
China was not mentioned by name in either the US or EU statements on the drills, but they were said to be done as part of the “shared commitment of the EU and United States to work towards practical maritime cooperation and support a free and open Indo-Pacific.”
According to the State Department, the exercises were the result of a decision made at “the last round of the EU-US High-Level Consultations on the Indo-Pacific on 2 December 2022.”
As part of its military buildup in the Asia Pacific, the US has been rallying its allies to join in on the provocations aimed at China. In recent years, the UK, France, and Germany have sent ships to the South China Sea.