Home US and Philippines begins ‘Balikatan’ military drills

US and Philippines begins ‘Balikatan’ military drills

us and philippines begins balikatan military drills

MANILA, PHILIPPINES — Thousands of Filipino and American troops will begin joint military drills in the Philippines on Monday, as Beijing’s growing assertiveness in the area raises the threat of conflict.

The annual exercises, known as “shoulder to shoulder” or Balikatan in Tagalog, will primarily focus on the northern and western regions of the country, which are close to Taiwan and the South China Sea, two possible hotspots.

China claims almost the entire waterway, a key route for international trade, and also considers self-ruled Taiwan to be part of its territory.

In response to China’s growing influence, the United States has been bolstering alliances with countries in the Asia-Pacific region, including the Philippines.

While the Philippines is poorly armed, its proximity to the South China Sea and Taiwan would make it a key partner for the United States in the event of a conflict with China.

“The purpose of armed forces, why we exist, is really to prepare for war,” Philippine Colonel Michael Logico told reporters ahead of the drills. “There’s no sugarcoating it… for us not to prepare, that’s a disservice to the country.”

The Philippine Coast Guard will join Balikatan for the first time following several confrontations between its vessels and the China Coast Guard, which patrols reefs off the Philippines’ coast.

The joint drills simulate an armed recapture of an island in Palawan province, the nearest major Philippine landmass to the hotly disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.

The same exercise will be held in the northern provinces of Cagayan and Batanes, less than 300 kilometers (180 miles) from Taiwan.

The United States has deployed its Standard Missile-6 (SM-6) guided missiles to the Philippines for Balikatan, but Logico said the weapons would not be used in the drills.

The exercises, which will run until May 10, will involve around 11,000 American and 5,000 Filipino troops and Australian and French military personnel.

France will also deploy a warship to participate in a joint exercise with Philippine and US vessels.

Balikatan is more than an exercise; it’s a tangible demonstration of our shared commitment to each other,” Lieutenant General William Jurney, commander of US Marine Corps Forces, Pacific, said.


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