Philippines, U.S. begin war games focusing on maritime threats

Thousands of Philippine and U.S. soldiers began annual war games on Monday, the first under a new security pact with the United States, focusing on maritime security in the face of China’s growing naval presence in the disputed South China Sea. The joint exercises “Balikatan” (shoulder-to-shoulder) would test the combat readiness of the two oldest allies in this part of the world to respond to any maritime threats, including piracy and humanitarian assistance and disaster response. The new security pact was signed last week just hours before U.S. President Barack Obama visited. Obama said the agreement was a testament to Washington’s “pivot” to Asia and was an “ironclad” commitment to defend the Philippines.

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