PALAWAN, Philippines – More than 600 American soldiers are in this southern province for “combat training and exercises” alongside Filipino soldiers. The two countries have stressed, however, that the exercises have nothing to do with the continuing spat over maritime territory in the West Philippine Sea.
They will soon be joined by Japanese units for simultaneous maritime drills.
The exercises in Palawan come on the heels of the “live-fire combat drill” that China conducted recently in the West Philippine Sea, near the islands claimed by Manila.
Meanwhile, nationalist groups are denouncing the naval exercises involving the US, Philippines and Japan.
Renato Reyes, secretary general of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, said Washington and Tokyo are only using China’s creeping expansion in the South China Sea to justify their own “militarist” agenda in the region.
Reyes described Japan as the “junior partner” of the US, fully supportive of the latter’s regional muscle-flexing, in part because Japan wants to find a reason to amend its pacifist constitution in order to deploy forces overseas.
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