US, Philippines launch largest military drills under President Rodrigo Duterte

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About 8,000 combined United States and Philippine troops will take part in Balikatan 2018, along with a small contingent from the Australian and Japanese armed forces.

He once threatened to end the annual drills with American forces.

THE US is fielding more troops in major exercises with the Philippine military aimed at fighting global terrorism, with both sides staying mostly quiet on Beijing's reported installation of missiles in the disputed South China Sea.

Balikatan is the annual military exercise between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and United States Pacific Command.

"We're doing more different kinds of things over two weeks than any other exercise, so I think this allows in exercise to demonstrate everything, from disaster relief to medical, to engineering, to close combat, to amphibious warfare", said Nicholson, who is the exercise's USA co-director.

Philippine military exercise director Lt. Gen. Emmanuel Salamat, US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim, Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, the Philippine military chief, Gen. Carlito Galvez, and US military exercise director Lt. Gen. Lawrence Nicholson.

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Joint US and Philippine military exercises this week will build on the lessons of the Marawi siege and increase counterterrorism capabilities, officials said.

The Balikatan exercises opened today and were to involve combat drills in mock urban settings to train special forces in battling terrorists in cities following the Islamic State group-linked siege on southern Marawi city a year ago.

Almost 3,000 US troops and 5,000 Philippine soldiers are participating in the drills, which will last for 10 days and will focus on improving joint humanitarian and counter-terrorism efforts in crisis situations, according to military officials. It took around six months for Philippine troops to liberate the city of Marawi, which is located on the island of Mindanao, from the Islamic militants.

"This is focusing mostly on countering terrorism... that will allow us to respond to a similar scenario in the future", Salamat said.

American and Filipino soldiers will participate in an amphibious assault exercise set on the beach of San Antonio, Zambales on Wednesday, said Salamat.

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