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Philippines, US troops begin annual combat drills

22/4/2024 12:11
        Nearly 17,000 Filipino and American troops will begin a three-week joint combat training exercise in the Philippines on Monday involving maritime drills in the South China Sea where Manila and Beijing have sparred over maritime borders.
        
        France and Australia, which have ramped up defence ties with Manila in the face of China's aggressive behaviour in the South China Sea, will join the maritime exercises to be conducted for the first time outside Philippine territorial waters.
        
        The annual Balikatan or "shoulder-to-shoulder" drills, which will run from April 22 to May 10, come amid an escalating diplomatic row and maritime encounters between the Philippines and China including the use of water cannon and heated verbal exchanges.
        
        Beijing's increasing pressure in the South China Sea has alarmed Manila, rival claimants to disputed martime territory, and other states operating there, including the United States which has reaffirmed its commitment to defend the Philippines against armed aggression in the South China Sea.
        



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