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US, Philippines kick off military exercises

The Philippines plans to invite Japan to participate in the Balikatan 2025 maneuvers

BANGKOK, April 22. /TASS/. The US and the Philippines have kicked off the annual Balikatan 2024 military exercises amid rising tensions in the South China Sea, ABS-CBN News television reported.

"The purpose of the armed forces for which we exist is essentially to prepare for war. There is no need to sugarcoat this. <...> if we don't prepare, it will do a disservice to the country," the television report quoted Balikatan 2024 spokesman Michael Logico as saying.

The spokesman said that for the first time, the exercise will take place outside Philippine territorial waters, about 22 kilometers from the Philippine coastline. ABS-CBN News also reported that the US has deployed SM-6 anti-aircraft guided missiles in the Philippines, but Logico said these weapons will not be used in the exercise.

According to the report, the Philippine Coast Guard will join the maneuvers for the first time to practice the response to an armed takeover of an island located near the Spratly Islands, which are disputed by China, the Philippines, Brunei, Vietnam and Malaysia. Balikatan 2024 participants will also practice the tactics of conducting information warfare, and ensuring maritime security and integrated air and missile defense.

The drills will last until May 10 and involve about 11,000 US service members and about 5,000 Filipino troops, as well as Australian and French military personnel. Representatives from 14 Asian and European countries will join as observers. The Philippines plans to invite Japan to participate in the Balikatan 2025 maneuvers.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lin Jian said on April 17 that China urged the Philippines to stop provocations in the South China Sea and the US to drop its support of confrontation in the region.