Philippines, US launch annual joint military drills


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 involve a 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.

The same exercise will be held in the northern provinces of Cagayan and Batanes, both less than 300km from Taiwan.

Like last year, there will be a sinking of a vessel off the northern province of Ilocos Norte.

Other training will concern information warfare, maritime security, and integrated air and missile defence.

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.

China’s foreign ministry has accused the United States of “stoking military confrontation”, and warned the Philippines to “stop sliding down the wrong path”.



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