US & Philippines Kick Off Largest Ever Joint Drills On ‘China’s Doorstep’

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US & Philippines Kick Off Largest Ever Joint Drills On ‘China’s Doorstep’

Tensions are soaring in waters off China as the US and its close regional ally the Philippines launched expansive joint war drills Monday, not far from hotly disputed maritime areas.

At over 16,000 troops, the exercises called the “Balikatan” drills (or “shoulder to shoulder”) mark the largest ever conducted between the two allies. “The 2024 iteration is not only the largest but the most complex,” Newsweek confirmed of the annual exercise.

US Marine Corps image

The joint exercises will focus on “seizing maritime terrain, HIMARS infiltrations, and coastal defense and maritime strike operations among others” — and are taking place around the the Philippine provinces of Palawan and Batanes, geographically near disputed China Sea areas as well as Taiwan.

A US Marine Corps statement described Balikatan as a “cornerstone event between the US and the Philippines, directly supporting the refinement and understanding of our shared Mutual Defense Treaty obligations.”

To be expected, Beijing has blasted the war games as a provocation, with Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lin Jian warning against the placement and deployment of US weapons systems “at China’s doorstep.” He further put the Philippines on notice, saying there will be “serious consequences of pandering to the United States.”

He further said Manilla “should understand that drawing in countries outside the South China Sea to flex their muscles and stoke confrontation in the region will only intensify tensions and undermine regional stability.” 

Russia’s Sputnik has the following details on the scope of the new drills:

Some of the drills will also involve other countries, such as Australia and France, in secondary roles.
14 nations will reportedly act as observers, including India, Japan, as well as some ASEAN and European Union countries.
In a first, six Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) vessels will participate in the drills in an active role.
The drills will simulate seizing islands in the vicinity of Taiwan and South China Sea.
For the first time, the exercises will be held at multiple Philippine locations, 12 nautical miles offshore, outside of the country’s territorial waters, near the disputed South China Sea – waters that are claimed by both China and the Philippines.
The maiden deployment by the US military of the Mid-Range Capability missile system in the Philippines has been denounced as contributing to a regional arms race.

Recently, rival Chinese and Philippine coast guard patrols have directly clashed over maritime territory and fishing rights. Often these involve the firing of water canons well as dangerous ramming situations.

Washington and Manillas are defense treaty partners – meaning that if Philippine forces ever come under direct military attack, the United States is ‘obligated’ to intervene on their behalf.

Tyler Durden
Mon, 04/22/2024 – 23:20