US-Philippines military drills get green light as Duterte softens stance
Exercises will focus on terrorism, reversing a trend towards preparing for South China Sea territorial conflict
The Philippine military announced on Sunday that they will indeed hold the annual Balikitan military exercises with US soldiers. The decision is a reversal of President Rodrigo Duterte’s stance that Manila should cancel drills and kick US troops out of the country, as he pivots to China.
The exercises, however, will be focused solely on combating terrorism and piracy, and will not include live-fire drills or simulations related to South China Sea territory disputes.
Last week, at Beijing’s insistence, Duterte canceled plans to travel to a disputed island and plant the Philippine flag, affirming his dramatic shift towards a closer relationship with China.