Philippine and US Forces Hold Joint Military Drills Amid South China Sea Tensions

The Philippines and US military will hold the annual joint military drills starting Monday until April 23, amidst tensions with China in the West Philippine Sea.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the United States military have formally opened the 36th Balikatan Exercises in Manila which aim to strengthen defense relations between the two countries.

“With this year’s 36th Balikatan Exercises, we reinvigorate the friendship, partnership and alliance between the Philippines and the United States; a bilateral relationship that is founded on our shared history of espousing peace, security, and cooperation among nations,” Cesar Yano, Philippine Department of National Defense Undersecretary said.

The annual exercise, which was cancelled last year due to the pandemic, will be participated by over 700 members of the AFP and 225 from the US Armed Forces, while in strict observance of measures against the coronavirus.

The two-week exercise comes after the release of US Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III’s statement on Saturday, after a phone call with Philippine counterpart Delfin Lorenzana to reaffirm both countries’ alliance.

The readout also said that both secretaries discussed the situation in the South China Sea and “the recent massing of People’s Republic of China maritime militia vessels at Whitsun Reef.”

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