December 1, 2023

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Manila and Washington kick off their biggest-ever war games

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THE PHILIPPINES and United States kicked off their biggest joint military exercises on Tuesday as they try to counter China’s increasing assertiveness in the South China Sea.

Almost 18,000 members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and US military will participate in the Balikatan (shoulder to shoulder) war games on April 11 to 28. There will be observers from Japan, South Korea, the United Kingdom, France, India and Southeast Asian countries.

The drills will include live-fire exercises near disputed waters of the South China Sea, including a plan to sink a decommissioned fishing boat in San Antonio, Zambales on the main island of Luzon.

San Antonio is about 140 miles from Scarborough Shoal, a Philippine feature in the South China Sea that is claimed by Beijing. In 2016, an international court ruled that both traditional Chinese and Filipino fishermen have the right to fish there. China has ignored the ruling.

It will be the first time the exercises are held under President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr., who has sought to boost security ties with the US after his predecessor Rodrigo R. Duterte led a pivot to China away from the US.

Mr. Marcos on Monday ruled out the use of Philippine military bases, access to which by American troops under a 2014 military pact has been widened, to launch offensives.

“We will not let our bases be used for whatever offensive actions,” he told reporters on the sidelines of a commemoration event for Filipino heroes of World War II.

The president said sites under the Philippines’ 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) with the US are aimed to help the Philippines.

In February, Mr. Marcos gave the US access to four more military bases under EDCA on top of the five existing sites. China has criticized the EDCA expansion, accusing the US of endangering “regional peace and stability.”

Also on Tuesday, Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique A. Manalo said the Philippines and US should discuss how American troops could…


2023-04-11 07:27:13

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