US, Philippines launch war games near South China Sea amid tension
AFPSAN ANTONIO, Philippines--The Philippines and the United States launched war games Wednesday at a naval base facing turbulent waters claimed by China, as the allies sought to highlight their expanding military ties.
September 19, 2013, 12:25 am TWN
About 2,300 marines from both sides are taking part in the annual maneuvers which this year are being staged alongside the South China Sea and come ahead of U.S. President Barack Obama's planned first visit to the Philippines next month.
The Philippines, which has been seeking U.S. military support to counter what it perceives as a growing Chinese threat to its South China Sea territory, welcomed the exercises as another important plank in building its defense capabilities.
“Multilateral exercises and agreements are essential in our cooperation and operational readiness as a multi-capable force, ready to defend our country's sovereignty and integrity,” Philippine Navy vice-commander Rear Admiral Jaime Bernardino said in a speech at the opening of the exercises.
The three-week Philippine-U.S. Amphibious Landing Exercises (Phiblex) will involve two U.S. warships, as well as a series of live ground fire exercises and jungle survival training.
The Filipino exercises commander, Brigadier-General Remigio Valdez, said they would also include simulated amphibious assaults to capture islands held by hostile forces.
“We are building our capability on amphibious operations, so it's part of the scenario,” he told reporters, although no specific hostile country was named.