AFP: Balikatan exercises not a show of force to China
The annual war games between the Philippines and United States set later this month is not a show of force against China, despite some exercises set to be staged near the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), a military official said on Tuesday.
“This is not a show of force … In the planning stages of the Balikatan exercises, the scenario of Chinese aggression was not included,” Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc told reporters at Camp Aguinaldo.
China has built structures in the resource-rich West Philippine Sea, including in areas claimed by the Philippines.
“The [Balikatan] has no direct relationship with the ongoing structures [built by China]. The Philippines maintains a peaceful resolution for disputes. The exercises are not only military related; there are also nonmilitary activities,” Cabunoc said.
Part of the exercises includes an amphibious assault demo in Zambales, near Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal) in the West Philippine Sea, and an urban search and rescue in Puerto Princesa, also facing the West Philippine Sea.
The US and Philippine military has doubled the size of troops that would participate in this year’s Balikatan that would be held from April 20 to 30.
There will be about 5,000 US troops and 6,000 Philippine troops that will be deployed for the joint exercises this year.
Last year, there were about 5,500 combined US and Philippine troops for the Balikatan exercises.
The exercises will involve civic military projects, maritime security and disaster response. RC
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