Philippines and US launch joint military drills to "prepare for war"

Manila, Philippines - Thousands of Filipino and American troops have kicked off joint military exercises in the Philippines, in a bid to show regional dominance and counter what is seen as China's growing assertiveness in the region.

Joint military exercises have been launched between the US and Filipino military.
Joint military exercises have been launched between the US and Filipino military.  © IMAGO/ZUMA Wire

The drills will be concentrated in the northern and western parts of the archipelago nation, near to potential flashpoints, including Taiwan and the South China Sea, which have been mostly claimed as Chinese territory.

"We're going to show the people of the Philippines and the world that we've gotten better, and we're never going to stop doing so," Lieutenant General William Jurney, commander of US Marine Corps Forces, Pacific, said at the opening ceremony in Manila.

"When we get better the Philippines gets stronger, safer and more secure."

Military drills with the Philippines meant to counter China's growing influence in the Asia Pacific

Military exercises come shortly after trilateral talks between the US, Japan, and the Philippines.
Military exercises come shortly after trilateral talks between the US, Japan, and the Philippines.  © IMAGO/ABACAPRESS

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

Washington and Manila are treaty allies and have deepened their defense cooperation since Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos took office in 2022.

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.

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"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."

Joint drills simulate recapture of islands in the South China Sea

Exercises between US and Filipino forces are simulating the capturing of islands in the South China Sea.
Exercises between US and Filipino forces are simulating the capturing of islands in the South China Sea.  © IMAGO/ZUMA Wire

The joint drills themselves involve the simulation of 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.

Similar exercises will be held in the northern provinces of Cagayan and Batanes, both less than 200 miles from Taiwan. Other training will concern information warfare, maritime security, and integrated air and missile defense.

US forces have 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.

Military drills follow weeks of increasing tensions, after the US held trilateral talks with Japan and the Philippines. Just last week, American and Chinese defense chiefs held their first talks in over a year, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken is set to visit China in an attempt to ease tensions.

China's foreign ministry has accused the United States of "stoking military confrontation" and warned the Philippines to "stop sliding down the wrong path."

Cover photo: IMAGO/ZUMA Wire

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