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US-Philippines launch war games after Obama pledge

Published on May 5, 2014 12:10 PM

MANILA (AFP) - Thousands of American and Philippine troops launched large annual exercises on Monday after US President Barack Obama vowed "ironclad" backing for its Asian ally, locked in a tense maritime row with China.

Filipino Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said the 10-day drills were necessary to deal with the challenge of "aggressive" neighbours intent on "changing the status quo".

He did not mention China directly, but it has been robust in its efforts to assert territorial claims over most of the South China Sea, putting a strain on its relationships with neighbouring countries.

"In recent years tensions in the Asia-Pacific region have increased due to extensive and expansive maritime and territorial claims undermining the rule of law," del Rosario said at the opening ceremony.

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