April 12, 2023: On Tuesday, the United States and the Philippines launched their most extensive combat exercises in decades involving live-fire drills, including a boat-sinking rocket assault in waters all over the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait inflaming China.
The yearly drills by the longtime treaty allies known as Balikatan Tagalog face-to-face will run up to April 28 and involve over 17,600 military personnel. It will be the recent display of American firepower in Asia, where Washington has warned China over its increasingly hard actions in the disputed sea channel and against Taiwan.
The Biden administration straightens an arc of alliances in the Indo-Pacific to better counter China, which includes a possible confrontation more than Taiwan.
That dovetails by the Philippines under President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. defending its territorial interests in the South China Sea by improving joint military exercises with the U.S. and permitting rotating batches of American forces to stay in Philippine military troops under a 2014 defence pact.
Nearly 12,200 U.S. military personnel, 5,400 Filipino forces and 111 Australian counterparts are participating in the exercises, the largest in Balikatan’s 30-year history. America’s warships, fighter jets, and its Patriot missiles, HIMARS rocket launching and anti-tank Javelins would be showcased, the U.S. and Philippine military officials.
“We are not provoking anybody by exercising,” Col. Michael Logico, a person from the Philippines for Balikatan, told the journalists ahead of the manoeuvres.
“This is a shape of deterrence,” Logico said. “Deterrence is when we are discouraging different parties from invading us.”
In a live-fire situation, the allied forces would level offshore for the initial time. Logico stated that U.S. and Filipino forces are sinking a 200-foot, or 61-meter, target vessel in Philippine territorial waters off the foreign province west of Zambales this month in a coordinated airstrike and artillery bombardment.
“We will hit it with all our weapons systems, both ground, navy and air,” Logico said.
That location which faces the South China Sea and all over the waters from the Taiwan Strait, would likely alarm China. Still, Philippine military officials stated that the manoeuvre focused on bolstering the country’s coastal defence and was not objecting to any country.
Such field situations would “test the allies’ capabilities in combined arms live-fire, concepts and intelligence sharing, communicating amid manoeuvre units, amphibious operations,” the U.S. Embassy in Manila stated.
Washington and Beijing have been on a mixture course regarding the long-seething territorial disputes which involve China, the Philippines and four other administrators and Beijing’s aim of annexing Taiwan by force if necessary.