(From AFP)

Thousands of US and Filipino soldiers will on Monday launch annual war games that this year are being seen as a show of strength in the face of China’s increasing assertiveness in the region.

Philippine soldiers and a US soldier (C) during a military drill in 2015
Philippine soldiers and a US soldier (C) during a military drill in 2015

The 11-day Balikatan (shoulder-to-shoulder) exercises are expected to show how the Philippines, though severely outgunned, can counter China with the help of the United States, its longest-standing ally.

China has in recent months built massive structures including radar systems and an airstrip over reefs and outcrops in the contested South China Sea, sparking international concern.

Beijing lays claim to almost all of the waters, which are important for international shipping and believed to hold valuable mineral and energy deposits, and neighbouring countries fear China could impose military controls over the entire sea.

The joint maneuvers come ahead of a decision this year by a United Nations-backed tribunal on a legal challenge by Manila to China’s territorial claims.

Adding to the tensions, the Philippines is preparing to host US troops in five bases under a defence pact born out of US President Barack Obama’s plan to reassert American influence in the Pacific. Read More

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