Fact checks on militaries

FACT CHECK: 2024 Balikatan not aimed at expelling Chinese ships from South China Sea


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FACT CHECK: 2024 Balikatan not aimed at expelling Chinese ships from South China Sea
The joint training exercises between the Philippines and the US aim to boost the two allies’ defense cooperation and interoperability, not expel Chinese ships from the South China Sea

Claim: The 2024 Balikatan exercises aim to expel Chinese vessels from the South China Sea.

Rating: FALSE

Why we fact-checked this: The YouTube video bearing the claim was posted on April 17 by a channel with 252,000 subscribers. As of writing, it has gained 53,193 views, 337 comments, and 1,500 likes.

The video’s title claims that a US major general warned China to remove its ships or be bombed. The video’s narrator also says: “Papalayasin ang lahat ng natitirang barko ng China sa South China Sea. (All remaining Chinese ships in the South China Sea will be expelled.)”

The video was uploaded a few days before the 2024 Balikatan exercises between the Philippines and the US officially started on April 22. The joint training exercises will be held until May 10.

The bottom line: The Balikatan exercises are an annual joint military training intended to enhance “military cooperation and readiness” between the Philippines and the US. According to Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr., the 39th edition of the exercises reflects the two treaty-allies’ “respect for international law in our pursuit of peace and security in the Indo-Pacific region.”

2024 Balikatan Exercises Executive Agent Colonel Michael Logico was also shown in the video as saying that the exercises “demonstrate the strength of the alliance and our willingness to defend our territory.” He did not mention any intentions to expel Chinese vessels from the South China Sea, contrary to the claim. There were also no mentions of any activities to expel Chinese ships in the AFP’s post on the exercises’ main components. (READ: View from Manila: West Philippine Sea part of ‘most ambitious, complicated’ Balikatan war games)


No US threat: The US major general mentioned in the title of the misleading video refers to Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Major General Pat Ryder, who held a press briefing last April 16 regarding US defense secretary Lloyd Austin’s meeting with his Chinese counterpart. Citing Austin, Ryder said the US “will continue to fly, sail, and operate safely and responsibly wherever international law allows.”

Nowhere in the video did Ryder threaten any military actions against China.

Maritime tensions: The Balikatan exercises are being conducted amid heightened tensions between the Philippines and China. Manila has rights over the West Philippine Sea, a part of the South China Sea that China claims as its own – despite a 2016 arbitral ruling invalidating its sweeping claim over the entire disputed waterway.

Chinese aggression in the West Philippine Sea has continued amid the joint training. On April 30, the Philippine Coast Guard reported another incident of Chinese ships using water cannons against two Philippine vessels in Bajo de Masinloc. Chinese navy ships have also been spotted in the West Philippine Sea.

Rappler has already published multiple fact-checks regarding the Philippines-China maritime dispute:

– Kyle Marcelino/Rappler.com

Kyle Marcelino is a graduate of Rappler’s fact-checking mentorship program. This fact check was reviewed by a member of Rappler’s research team and a senior editor. Learn more about Rappler’s fact-checking mentorship program here.

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