US, Philippines Kick Off Largest Multinational Drills Since Duterte Took Office

(From Stars and Stripes)

The United States and the Philippines have begun their largest multinational drills under President Rodrigo Duterte, who sought to scale down America’s military presence in his country after taking office in June 2016.

About 8,000 U.S. and Philippine troops on Monday kicked off the 34th iteration of the annual Balikatan exercise — which means “shoulder to shoulder” in Tagalog — that runs through May 18 in the Philippines.

The U.S. has sent 3,000 servicemembers to this year’s drills — about the same number as last year — while the Philippines has increased its participation to 5,000 personnel from the 2,800 who participated in 2017.

The drills come a week after CNBC reported that China had deployed surface-to-air and anti-ship missiles on disputed South China Sea islands, and a month after the Wall Street Journal said electronic jamming equipment on those islands was targeting U.S. Navy planes in the area.

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