6,800 US and Filipino Forces Joined the War Game near Spratlys – France Fighter jets spotted?

Thousands of US soldiers will begin nearly two weeks of war games in the Philippines on Monday April 16, 2012 as the two nations look to strengthen their military alliance amid concerns over China's rising power.

The Balikatan (Shoulder-to-shoulder) exercises are an annual event but this year are expected to attract a greater focus with some of the drills set to be held close to sensitive Wet Philippines (South China) Sea waters claimed by the Chinese.

The Philippines insists the exercises, involving 6,800or 4,500 US personnel and 2,300 Filipino troops, should not be seen by China as a provocation.

This year they are taking place off Palawan, near parts of the South China Sea both Manila and Beijing claim.

 "Our aim is not against any country, our aim is to protect maritime security and to protect the interests of our country," Major Emmanuel Garcia, Philippine military spokesman for Balikatan.

Meanwhile Philippine and Chinese vessels remain at the Scarborough Shoal, a week after the deadlock began.

The Philippines said its warship found eight Chinese fishing vessels at the shoal - which both sides claim - when it was patrolling the area on 8 April.

When navy personnel boarded the Chinese fishing vessels on Tuesday they found a large amount of illegally-caught fish and coral, it said.

Two Chinese surveillance ships then arrived in the area, preventing the navy from making arrests.

Nevertheless, Garcia confirmed US and Philippine ships will stage drills in waters facing the South China Sea, while Filipino leaders have repeatedly said that China is one of the country's main "maritime security" concerns.

China claims all of the West Philippines (South China) Sea as a historic right, even waters close to the coasts of the Philippines and other Southeast Asian countries.

The competing claims to the strategically vital waters have long made the area one of Asia's potential flashpoints for military conflict.

The Philippines has complained over the past two years that China has become increasingly aggressive in staking its claim to the waters, accusing the Chinese of acts such as firing warning shots at Filipino fishermen.

Tensions spiked again this month when Philippine and Chinese ships became locked in a standoff at a tiny set of islets called Scarborough Shoal or also called Panatag Shoal by the Philippines in the West Philippines (South China) Sea.

After a week, both sides have refused to back down and are still keeping civilian vessels at the shoal, 230 kilometers (140 miles) west of the Philippines' main island of Luzon, in an effort to assert sovereignty and around 900 miles from Hong Kong' Chinas closest independent province.

Facing the perceived growing threat from China, Philippine President Benigno Aquino III last year called for closer military ties with the United States.

The United States was the colonial ruler of the Philippines in the first half of the 20th Century and maintained military bases until the early 1990s, but was forced to end its permanent presence amid anti-US sentiment.

Aquino's appeal last year was welcomed in the United States, which has been seeking to rebuild its presence across the Asia Pacific, partly to counter the growing political, economic and military might of China.

Aquino told AFP last month that, although there would be no return to permanent US bases in the Philippines, he welcomed a greater American military presence through more joint exercises such as Balikatan.

In this context, Balikatan will hold extra significance in terms of sending a message to China, according to John Blaxland, a regional security and political expert from the Australian National University.

"It's a subtle message affirming for the Philippines that the US is serious about playing in Asia and will lend assistance to those in need," Blaxland told AFP.

The Balikatan exercises, which run from April 16, 2012 Monday until April 27, are scheduled to be held on Luzon as well as Palawan, a narrow island that forms the country's western-most landmass.

The Philippines and the United States have emphasized that Balikatan is not focused solely on conflict, with troops also set to conduct humanitarian and disaster-relief exercises.

Balikatan opening in manila; In a speech at the opening ceremony for the exercises in Manila, Philippines' armed forces chief Jessie Dellosa did not specifically mention China but said the war games highlighted strong US support for its weaker ally.

"Given the international situation we are in, I say that this exercise, in coordination with all those we had in the past, (is) timely and mutually beneficial," Dellosa said.

"The conduct of this annual event reflects the aspirations to further relations with our strategic ally, a commitment that has to be nurtured especially in the context of the evolving challenges in the region." 

France Fighter jets – spotted

While the deadlock between the Philippines and China continues in the Scarborough Shoal, it has been reported that China intensity the conflict in the Philippines territory and sending another navy patrol and warplane flying over the Philippines ships and harassing the Filipino fishermen and French national's-Scientist conducting research in the area with Philippine government approval.

After the incidents of China's harassment to the French Scientists, it has been reported by civilians from the southern Philippines that 2 France Fighter jets has been spotted many times flying so close in the Southern Philippines. This report is not yet confirmed by the Philippines authority as initially reported by the civilians.

China continued its effort for expansionism that starts hurting the international community in their aggression.

In 2011, China spend all efforts to buy all antique map around the world that named the Philippines islands in different name and replace it with new name based on China's locally coined name to assert its claim in the Philippines territory.

Inspite of their effort, the Philippines are not be bothered but relied the United Nations to intervene the China's aggression and insisted that the disputed triggered by china in invading the Philippines territory must be resolve by the UNCLOS.

United Nations has been silent and never reacts of the recent disputes in the Seas of the South East Asia and not even shows its strength to implement the United Nations convention on laws of Seas.

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2 comments:

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