US-PH combat drills announced under critical Duterte
MANILA, Philippines — Philippine military officials on Thursday announced the first large-scale combat exercises between US and Filipino forces under President Rodrigo Duterte, who has been critical of American security policies.
Military officials said the annual maneuvers by about 1,400 US military personnel and 500 Philippine marines will involve amphibious landing and live-fire exercises at a northern gunnery range from Oct 4 to 12.
Describing himself as a socialist, Duterte has had an uneasy relationship with the US He has said he is charting a foreign policy not dependent on the US, a treaty ally, and has taken steps to revive ties with China, which had been strained under his predecessor over longstanding territorial conflicts.
He repeated in a speech Thursday that he would not allow Filipino forces to conduct joint patrols with the US military in the disputed South China Sea because that could spark an armed conflict in Philippine territory. He has also said he wants US forces out of the country’s south, where he said minority Muslims resent the presence of American troops.
Still, Duterte has said he will not abrogate the mutual defense treaty with the US and will maintain the long alliance with America./rga
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