Philippines and US hold largest-ever joint military exercises
The Philippines and the United States have launched their largest-ever joint military exercises, called Balikatan, involving nearly 18,000 troops to counter China’s growing assertiveness in the region. The annual drills, which include a live-fire exercise in the South China Sea, are being held for the first time under President Ferdinand Marcos, who seeks to strengthen ties with the US. The maneuvers include military helicopters landing on the Philippine island of Luzon and the retaking of an island by amphibious forces.
Balikatan drills aimed at protecting Philippine sovereignty
Philippine exercises spokesman Colonel Michael Logico said the drills were aimed at protecting the country’s sovereign territory. The exercise features troops staging an amphibious landing on Palawan, the closest Philippine landmass to the Spratly Islands, where China and the Philippines have rival claims.
US troops to use Philippine bases, including one near Taiwan
The exercises follow China’s three-day military exercise, which simulated targeted strikes and a blockade of Taiwan, which Beijing considers part of its territory. While the joint news conference did not address questions about the Taiwan tensions, U.S. troops will be allowed to use four Philippine military bases under the agreement, including a naval base near Taiwan.
Balikatan exercises to improve military tactics, techniques, and procedures
This year’s Balikatan exercises will see a significant increase in the number of troops involved compared to last year. Approximately 12,200 American, 5,400 Filipino, and over 100 Australian soldiers will participate in the two-week military drills. This represents almost twice as many troops as the previous year’s exercise. The Americans will also use their Patriot missiles, one of the world’s best air-defense systems, and the HIMARS precision rocket system, which has been used by Ukrainian forces fighting Russian troops. According to Colonel Medel Aguilar, spokesperson for the Philippine military, the exercises will improve “tactics, techniques, and procedures” for a broad range of military operations.
The Balikatan exercises are part of recent agreements between Manila and Washington to restart joint maritime patrols in the South China Sea and expand the US military’s presence in the Philippines, which has infuriated China. As a result, China accused the US of “endangering regional peace and stability”.
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