The Philippines and the United States have begun two weeks of joint military training – dubbed Balikatan – or shoulder-to-shoulder military drills. It’s the 30th year of the annual activities but as CCTV’s Barnaby reports, this year’s exercises are the first since both countries signed a new defense agreement that expands U.S. military presence in the Philippines.
Philippines and the U.S. Began Joint Military TrainingThe Philippines and the United States have begun two weeks of joint military training - dubbed Balikatan - or shoulder-to-shoulder military drills. It's the 30th year of the annual activities but as CCTV's Barnaby reports.
Side by side, shoulder to shoulder–Filipino and American soldiers are recreating scenarios, swapping combat skills, and trading ideas and expertise in two weeks of joint military exercises dubbed Balikatan.
The Philippines and the United States hold military exercises several times a year; Balikatan is the largest. This year, some 5,500 Filipino and American troops are taking part. It’s the first since both countries signed a new military agreement that would increase US military presence in the country.
Some of the drills involve Filipino and U.S. Marines storming a beach facing the South China Sea aimed at helping the Philippines build its maritime surveillance capability. This is, at a time when tensions continue to simmer in the region, due to territorial disputes.
Albert Del Rosario, Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary, claims: “Balikatan 2014, with its focus on maritime security, strongly supports our capabilities to address these challenges. Balikatan activities and exercises not only teach our militaries to work together, but also build Philippine capacity for defense and security, modernizing this alliance in step with the needs of the 21st century.”
Military officials say, however, that politics played no part in planning the exercises.
U.S. Army Lieutenant colonel Dave Zimm says: “What we do is not related to that. We have been conducting this exercise again for the past 30 years, and I think that all of our partners around the world and in this region understand that this is a routine exercise that we do that’s focused on the partnership between our two nations.”
And with the new agreement allowing more U.S. troops and their hardware on Philippine soil, chances are, there will also be more of these joint exercises.
CCTV’s Asieh Namdar is joined by Su Xiaohui, Deputy Director, Department of International and Strategic Studies, China Institute of International Studies, on China’s response to Philippines-U.S. Balikantan exercises.