Concerns have been raised about the US-Philippines drill

A joint exercise to be conducted from Monday by the armed forces of the Philippines and the United States threatens regional stability and further fuels tension in the South China Sea, analysts say.

The annual exercise, called Balikatan, a Filipino term meaning shoulder to shoulder, will take place from April 22 to May 10. As many as 16,700 soldiers will participate in a broad spectrum of training activities, from maritime security and air defense to cyber defense. warfare and information operations.

Of particular note is the deployment of the Mid-Range Capability missile system, popularly called Typhon, by the US Army Pacific in Luzon, Philippines, which faces Taiwan or China – another flashpoint of tense Sino-US relations.

This marks a notable development as it is the first time the US has deployed a land-based, ground-launched system following its withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, analysts say.

Japanese media reported that the missile system has a range that reaches Shanghai.

About 14 countries will join as observers, including Japan, India and countries in ASEAN and the European Union, said Michael Logico, a Philippine army colonel who oversaw the exercises.

Commenting on the exercises, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lin Jian said the Philippines “must understand that attracting countries outside the South China Sea to flex their muscles and fuel confrontation in the region will only increase tensions and undermine regional stability.”

Lin said that by using external forces to maintain its security, the Philippines “will only place itself in greater uncertainty and even become the pawn of others.”

Anna Rosario Malindog-Uy, vice president for external affairs at the Asian Century Philippines Strategic Studies Institute, said Typhon’s deployment for this year’s joint exercise is a “dark day” for the Asia-Pacific region, and that this could reform security. structure here.

She said the deployment could potentially serve as a precursor to the more permanent basing of such missile systems in the western Pacific and “could be interpreted as provocative towards China.”

The arms race has come to an end

“The introduction of such capabilities into Philippine territory could contribute to a regional arms race,” she said.

Chen Hong, executive director of the Asia Pacific Studies Center at East China Normal University in Shanghai, characterized the joint military exercise as a strategic maneuver by the Philippine government to align with the US in the context of broader Sino-American rivalry .

“The Philippine government is committed to playing the ‘anti-China’ card, and its involvement serves as an expression of its willingness to act as a proxy for the US in the South China Sea dispute,” he said .

Under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, a military pact that allows the US to deploy its troops, weapons and equipment to up to nine military bases in Philippine territory, the US has now expanded access to Philippine military bases and more extensive military exercises held in the Philippine territory. the country.

Zhang Jie, a researcher at the National Institute of International Strategy of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, said Manila has its own motives behind joining Washington. strengthen domestic support while leveraging military and economic assistance from allied countries, including Japan, in their stand against China.”

Zhang said the Philippines’ insistence on involving countries outside the region in the South China Sea risks exacerbating regional tensions and increasing the likelihood of strategic miscalculations.

“The geopolitical implications of these developments extend beyond bilateral dynamics, impacting regional stability and the unity of ASEAN countries,” she said.

Wilson Lee Flores, honorary chairman of the Anvil Business Club, said ASEAN should strive to become a nuclear-weapon-free and demilitarized region.

“ASEAN must avoid the tragic wars that are now ravaging Europe and the Middle East,” he said.

“The ‘wolf pack tactics’ employed by the US should cause alarm. “By fomenting trouble between China and ASEAN countries and carrying out military activities in the South China Sea, the aim is to disrupt the region and consolidate global hegemony,” Chen said. .