US and Philippine marines today began exercises in the South China Sea and the Luzon Strait, near Taiwan. According to Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr, the Chinese claim territories that belong to the Philippines. US and Japanese forces are engaged in drills on Hokkaido Island; Chinese and Russians forces recently carried out joint naval exercises in the area.
Washington (AsiaNews) – US and Philippine forces today began joint military exercises, codenamed Kamandag.
For two weeks, some 2,500 US and 600 Philippine marines will take part in drills that include amphibious landings and humanitarian assistance operations. Japanese and South Korean observers will be present.
The manoeuvres are being held in two distinct regions of the Philippines: Palawan Island in the South China Sea, and Luzon Strait, which separates Philippine territory from Taiwan.
China claims 90 per cent of the South China Sea, something that the Philippines and other regional actors, including the United States, reject. For its part, Taiwan has come under heavy political and military pressure from Communist China with reunification as the ultimate goal.
Since taking office in June, Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr has returned to a more "balanced" policy between the United States, its formal ally, and China, both which are engaged in a regional power game.
This represents a change in direction from his predecessor, Rodrigo Duterte, who, during the first part of his mandate, focused on building closer relations with China to gain economic advantages that never materialised.
In his recent visit to New York for the annual session of the UN Assembly, Marcos Jr clearly explained his country's position.
“The position that the Philippines takes is that we have no territorial conflict with China. What we have is China claiming territory that belongs to the Philippines,” he explained.
After meeting US President Joe Biden, the Philippine leader noted the role played by the United States “in maintaining the peace in our region is something that is much appreciated by all the countries in the regions and the Philippines especially.”
Meanwhile, at least 3,000 US marines are currently engaged in military exercises with Japanese forces in Hokkaido, Japan's northern island. Recently, Chinese and Russian naval forces carried out joint exercises not far from where the US-Japanese forces are active.
It is noteworthy that after Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the US House of Representatives, visited Taiwan in August, China launched "punitive exercises" that included firing ballistic missiles into Japan’s exclusive economic zone near the Sakishima Islands, Okinawa prefecture.
The area includes the Senkaku Islands, in the East China Sea, which the Chinese call Diaoyu and claim as their own even though they are administered by Japan.