More than 17,000 soldiers involved: USA and Philippines start major military exercises

Status: 04/11/2023 11:05 a.m

More than 17,000 soldiers are involved: The USA and the Philippines have started their largest joint military maneuvers to date. Shortly before, China had held a three-day maneuver in front of Taiwan.

Amid rising tensions with China, the US and the Philippines have begun their largest-ever joint military exercises. The background is China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea and military maneuvers off Taiwan. A total of 17,600 soldiers are taking part this time in the annual “Balikatan” exercises (roughly translated: shoulder to shoulder), including 12,200 from the USA.

The maneuvers, which will also include sea combat exercises with live ammunition, will last until April 28. As part of the “Balikatan” maneuver this year, helicopters are to land on an island north of the main Philippine island of Luzon, which is about 300 kilometers from Taiwan. In addition, the recapture of an island is to be practiced using amphibious forces. “Balikatan” 2023 will be held in five provinces including Zambales and Palawan, which lie on the South China Sea.

Preparations to respond to “every crisis”.

The training is intended to prepare the armed forces of both countries “to respond immediately and effectively to any situation, crisis or emergency under any circumstances,” said Philippine military chief Andres Centino at the beginning of the exercises. At the same time, they should contribute to peace in the Indo-Pacific.

In February, the Philippines had already promised the United States access to four more military bases in the island nation. US forces previously used five Philippine military bases.

China warns against interfering in disputes

The Philippines and other countries are at odds with Beijing over sovereignty over resource-rich marine areas. China has created artificial islands to support claims and is unwilling to recognize an international arbitration award in favor of the Philippines.

China warned there should be no interference in disputes over contested waters. China’s territorial sovereignty, maritime rights and security interests should not be harmed either, said Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin.

Military maneuvers off Taiwan completed

The U.S. and Philippines drills follow a three-day Chinese maneuver off Taiwan, which Beijing said ended Monday. However, Taipei again today reported sightings of nine Chinese warships and 26 aircraft. According to Chinese information, the military exercises included the sealing off of the island and attacks on “key targets” located there.

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