Two sets of military exercises are underway this morning (this afternoon) in Asia. Only one involves U-S forces, but they both highlight political challenges in the region. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.
Indonesia’s air force is in the midst of the largest military exercises in the country’s history. A government spokesman says more than 2-thousand air force personnel are taking part in the drills near some of its islands in the South China Sea. China has said the two countries have “overlapping claims” to some waters near the islands. Indonesia is using the exercises to underline its sovereignty over that region.
A smaller operation is underway this week in the northern Philippines. About 1,100 American forces and some 400 Filipino military personnel are holding eight days of military exercises. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has said these may be the last joint exercises involving the two countries….although other Philippine officials have played down those remarks. US military officials and their Philippine counterparts have already begun planning a much larger set of maneuvers for next spring. Last year’s annual “Balikatan” exercises involved nearly 9,000 forces—including some 5,000 from the United States. Balikatan means “shoulder to shoulder” in Tagalog…and the initial planning for next year’s version began this June in Hawaii….two weeks before Rodrigo Duterte took office in Manila.