PH-US Balikatan begin training near disputed waters

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The Philippines and the United States began the annual Balikatan war games Monday. The Balikatan exercises will run from May 5 to 16 in military bases near the provinces of Palawan and Zambales. Both provinces are near territories claimed by both Manila and Beijing. Philippine military chief General Emmanuel Bautista said the war games will demonstrate maritime security cooperation between both nations. About 3,000 Filipino troops and 2,500 American troops are participating, with this year’s war games also focusing on humanitarian assistance and disaster response. Philippine military officials said the newly-signed 10-year military deal brings the Balikatan to a “new level” by allowing US troops to preposition defense equipment and construct military facilities. The Philippines asked for US military assistance in the wake of Chinese aggression in the disputed West Philippine Sea or South China Sea. During his state visit to Manila, US President Barack Obama vowed “ironclad” commitment to defend the Philippines against external attacks.

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