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HomeWorldUS, Philippines' strongest ever message to Xi Jinping: Blow up ship during drills...

US, Philippines’ strongest ever message to Xi Jinping: Blow up ship during drills in South China Sea

US and Philippine forces, backed by an Australian Air Force surveillance aircraft, unleashed a barrage of high-precision rockets, artillery fire and airstrikes on Wednesday and sank a mock enemy ship as part of large war drills in and near the disputed South China Sea that have antagonized Beijing.

Military officials and diplomats from several countries watched the display of firepower from a hilltop along a sandy coast in Laoag City in Ilocos Norte, Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s northern home province.

Over 16,000 military personnel participated
More than 16,000 military personnel from the United States and the Philippines, along with a few hundred Australian troops and military observers from 14 countries, were participating in annual combat-readiness drills called Balikatan, Tagalog for shoulder-to-shoulder.

The drills, which started on April 22 and ended on Friday, include a scenario of a foreign invasion of the Philippine archipelago. It’s the latest indication of how the United States and the Philippines have bolstered a defence treaty alliance that started in the 1950s amid their concern in recent years over China’s increasingly aggressive actions in disputed territories in Asia.

Marcos has ordered his military to shift its focus to external defence from decades-long domestic anti-insurgency operations as China’s actions in the South China Sea become a top concern. That strategic shift dovetails with the efforts of US President Joe Biden and his administration to reinforce an arc of alliances in the Indo-Pacific region to counter China.

China has angered the Philippines by repeatedly harassing its navy and coast guard ships with powerful water cannons, a military-grade laser, blocking movements and other dangerous manoeuvres in the high seas near two disputed South China Sea shoals. They have led to minor collisions that have injured several Filipino navy personnel and damaged supply boats.

“We’re under the gun,” Philippine Ambassador to Washington Jose Romualdez told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. “We don’t have the wherewithal to be able to fight all of this bullying coming from China so where else will we go?” Romualdez said. “We went to the right party, which is the United States and those that believe in what the US is doing.”

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