US, Philippines kick off joint military drills in South China Sea with 16,000 troops

14 nations, including Japan, India, also take part in drills as observers amid maritime tensions in South China Sea

Anadolu Agency April 22, 2024
19-day exercises, dubbed 'Balikatan 2024,' will involve around 5,000 Philippine and 11,000 US troops. PHOTO: ANADOLU AGENCY


Some 16,000 US and Philippine troops kicked off the annual joint military drills on Monday in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), local media reported.

WPS is the official designation by Philippines to the parts of the South China Sea that are included in the country's exclusive economic zone.

The 19-day exercises, dubbed "Balikatan 2024," will involve around 5,000 Philippine and 11,000 US troops, making it the largest joint military drills between the two allies conducted in decades, local English daily Manila Times reported citing the military.

A total of 14 nations, including Japan and India, will take part in the drills as observers amid mounting maritime tensions in the South China Sea.

Contingents from the Australian Defence Force and the French Navy will also join the exercise as participants.

Read also: China urges US to stop using Philippines as a pawn to destabilise South China Sea

France will join the group sail but will only navigate on the edge of the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in WPS.

The Japan Defense Force was supposed to join the maritime sail but did not respond to the Philippine army's invitation on time.

This year's maritime drill will, for the first time, go beyond the Philippines' 12-nautical-mile territorial waters.

During the exercises, the participants will execute a range of complex missions across domains, including maritime security, air and missile defence, dynamic missile strikes, cyber defence, and information operations.


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