On Sunday (4/11/2021), the Philippine military authorities announced that the Armed Forces of the Philippines will conduct joint exercises with hundreds of American soldiers in the next two weeks amid escalating tensions with Beijing in the South China Sea.
Philippine Army Commander Cerelito Sobigana explained that the 2020 maneuvers have been canceled due to the Coronavirus pandemic, and the 2021 maneuvers will also be smaller due to the health crisis.
Sobiana said the military exercises, known as Balikatan (shoulder to shoulder), would involve about 700 US soldiers and 1,000 Philippine military personnel, about a quarter of the usual attendance.
The announcement came hours after US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and his Philippine counterpart, Delphine Lorenzana.
Chinese boats in Philippine waters
The Philippines protested the presence of Chinese ships within its 200-mile-long exclusive economic zone on the Whitson Reef and repeatedly called on Beijing to withdraw the ships.
However, Chinese diplomats assert that the fishing boats were protected from the poor sea conditions and that there were no militias on board.
This year’s exercises will also implement the two countries’ responses to threats such as natural disasters and militant attacks.
AFP / Reuters / p