Philippines to Host U.S. War Games After Duterte Softens Stance

The Philippines and the U.S. have scheduled military drills next month in the Southeast Asian nation, the U.S. embassy in Manila said, days after President Rodrigo Duterte acknowledged that his country did need American troops in the South China Sea.

About 1,400 U.S. servicemen based in Okinawa, Japan, and 500 Philippine Armed Forces personnel will conduct an amphibious-landing exercise and live-fire training in multiple locations on the main island of Luzon and in Palawan, according to a statement on the embassys on Saturday. The drills, aimed at making troops better prepared to operate together during a natural disaster or armed conflict, are set for Oct. 4-12.

Duterte has sent conflicting messages about Philippine foreign policy and the nature of his nations tieups with overseas partners since he was sworn in late June, sowing confusion at a time of rising concern about Chinas claims to most of the South China Sea. The former mayor last week acknowledged that his country needed American troops after earlier calling for the end of joint patrols in the strategic waterway. The U.S. alliance with the Philippines has for decades been a bedrock of American influence in the region.

Exchanging expertise and cultivating our longstanding security alliance provides a cornerstone for security and stability in the region, and has for decades, Brigadier General John Jansen, Commanding General, 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, said in the statement.

Duterte has proved to be unpredictable, as well as blunt and provocative, in his opening weeks in office, and has often made conflicting statements. These have included remarks on whether the Philippines intends to negotiate with China over territory in the South China Sea, a region in which Manila also has claims.

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