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Philippines and US conduct largest ever war games with simulated mock invasions



Troops from the United States and the Philippines recently conducted joint military exercises in Laoag, Philippines, to simulate repelling a maritime invasion along the coast of the South China Sea. These exercises marked the largest ever Balikatan joint military drills between the two nations, highlighting their close alliance under President Ferdinand Marcos Jr’s leadership.

The live fire exercises were held in northern Ilocos province, closest to mainland China, amidst rising tensions between Philippine vessels and the China Coast Guard in the South China Sea. The exercises aimed to show a strong deterrent against any potential threats from China, which claims almost the entire South China Sea under its nine-dash line.

While the US and Philippine militaries did not name a specific adversary, this year’s drills focused on areas near the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait. The exercises included missile launches, howitzer firing, and simulated amphibious warship sinking. The US also showcased new weapons like the Typhon mid-range missile launcher that can target Chinese bases in the region.

Local communities near the exercise areas expressed concerns about the increasing military presence. Governor Manuel Mamba of Cagayan province opposed the development of US bases in the region, fearing being dragged into a war that is not theirs. Some fishermen were ordered not to sail during the drills, causing financial losses, while relief stipends offered by communities during the exercises were insufficient.

The exercises also drew criticism from China, with a Chinese warship and vessels disrupting at least one live fire exercise. The Chinese embassy in Manila did not comment on the drills, but tensions remain high in the region due to territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

Both the US and the Philippines emphasized the importance of a free and open Indo-Pacific region, grounded in seeking peaceful solutions to conflicts. However, they also highlighted their readiness to train and work together in the event of a conflict that requires a military response.

The joint military exercises in Laoag showcased the strong partnership between the US and the Philippines in addressing regional security challenges. While the exercises may have raised local anxieties and drawn criticism from China, they also reaffirmed the commitment of both nations to strengthening their defense cooperation in the face of potential threats in the region.

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