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The United States Marines and their Filipino counterparts participated in high-stakes military drills in the Philippines, showcasing their readiness in a region filled with geopolitical tension. 

The exercises, held in the northern island town of Itbayat, Batanes province, were part of the larger annual Balikatan exercises which translates to “shoulder-to-shoulder” in Tagalog. This year’s event, involving over 16,000 personnel, is the largest to date, signaling a robust display of military cooperation between the US and the Philippines.

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Marine Maj. Robert Patterson highlighted the importance of these drills, stating, “We are absolutely battle-ready and that’s what we train for day in and day out. It’s important to enhance inter-operability with our Filipino counterparts.”

The backdrop for these drills is the ongoing tension in the South China Sea, where there have been multiple confrontations between Chinese and Philippine vessels. These exercises also covered the strategically crucial Bashi Channel, a vital waterway near Taiwan that has been a focal point of US-China regional rivalry. 

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China has came out against the exercises, warning that these drills could lead to a direct confrontation with the Chinese military. According to Chinese officials, the exercises “undermine” the regions stability. 


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