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US-Philippines to launch war games after Obama pledge

Published on May 5, 2014 5:56 AM

MANILA (AFP) - Longtime allies the Philippines and the United States start annual, large-scale military exercises on Monday after President Barack Obama vowed “ironclad” backing for Manila as a territorial dispute with China simmers.

The two-week Balikatan or “shoulder-to-shoulder” drills involving 5,500 American and Filipino soldiers begin just days after Mr Obama assured Manila his government was committed to a 1951 mutual defence treaty.

The allies last week bolstered their ties with a new defence agreement signed ahead of a visit by Mr Obama giving American forces greater access to Philippine bases – part of a US rebalancing of military power towards rising Asia.

“What President Obama said was a reaffirmation of our treaty,” Philippine military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Ramon Zagala said.

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