(From Reuters)

About 8,000 U.S. and Filipino troops began annual military exercises on Monday against a backdrop of tension over China’s greater assertiveness in the South China Sea though a Philippine commander played that down as the reason for the drills.

Soldiers carry Philippine and U.S. flags during the opening ceremony of the Balikatan military exercises at Quezon

Over the next two weeks, the allies will test their command-and-control, communications, logistics and mobility procedures to address humanitarian and maritime security, Philippine defense officials said.

Their troops will also simulate retaking an oil-and-gas platform and practice an amphibious landing on a Philippine beach.

“The Balikatan exercise is designed not to address a particular concern but the whole lump in the spectrum of warfare,” Vice Admiral Alexander Lopez, the Philippine military’s exercise director, told a news conference.

“China is not part of the idea.” Read More

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