US and Philippines start joint exercises

U.S. and Philippine special forces will begin annual combat exercises on Wednesday in a sign such joint drills are continuing despite vocal opposition by the Philippine president. The U.S. military says that so far there’s been no reduction in cooperation with the Philippines, a longstanding U.S. ally, despite President Rodrigo Duterte’s threats to do so and his expressed desire to expand security ties with China and Russia. But in a sign of a possible restriction, Philippine army spokesman Col. Benjamin Hao said Tuesday both the U.S. and the Philippines have agreed to forego live-fire drills in the field during the month-long Balance Piston exercises which will take place in the western province of Palawan. He said about 40 elite Filipino troops are taking part but wouldn’t say how many Americans. He didn’t give a reason for dropping the live-fire maneuvers. The Philippine defense department has said Duterte wants such overt assault drills to be discontinued. In Washington, Adm. Harry Harris, the commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific, said Tuesday that there’s been no change so far in U.S.-Philippine military cooperation”.

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