US, Philippines Launch Military Exercise Amid Tensions With China

Posted April 16th, 2012 at 3:20 am (UTC-5)
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U.S. and Philippines forces on Monday opened 12 days of military exercises amid growing maritime tensions with China.

Commanders from the two sides launched the drills with a formal ceremony in Manila, where the Philippine chief of staff, Jessie Dellosa, warned vaguely of the threat posed by “certain international issues.”

“But in spite of the confidence built regarding our response to internal threats, we remain in the shadow of doubt, pertaining to certain international issues that other nations of the world are also concerned with at the moment. As the chief institution mandated to protect our people, uphold our territorial integrity, and defend this country's sovereignty, we must be wary of these issues.''

Dellosa did not identify the threats, but last week Chinese vessels had blocked a Philippine warship from arresting the crews of several Chinese fishing boats in the South China Sea.

The Philippines accused the Chinese boats of fishing illegally in Philippine waters. However the fishermen were able to return home with their catches.

More than 6,000 U.S. and Philippine personnel are involved in the latest exercise, which will focus on disaster response and humanitarian actions but also involve some maritime combat maneuvers. Part of the exercise will take place near the southwestern island of Palawan, facing disputed areas of the South China Sea.

Despite the recent standoff, U.S. Brigadier General Frederick Padilla insisted the exercises are not aimed at any single country.

“Well this exercise, from our standpoint is not linked to any particular situation. It is merely an opportunity for us to work on our relationship and be able to be ready. And again this year, the scenario is the humanitarian assistance and disaster relief scenario. So that's what we're focused on. It's to build on that bond, build on relationships where we can respond better should there be a crisis that comes.''

The United States last year announced plans to build up its military engagement with Asian countries in what was widely interpreted as a response to China's rising military power and aggressive territorial claims.