Philippine, U.S. troops hold amphibious assault drills near South China Sea

AP

More than 100 Filipino and U.S. marines in assault amphibious vehicles conducted a mock assault on imaginary enemies in military drills Monday carried out on a beach in the northwestern Philippines fronting the South China Sea — where Manila is locked in a territorial dispute with China.

The amphibious tanks sailed from a U.S. ship anchored a distance away, then rolled onto the beach of San Antonio, Zambales, northwest of the Philippine capital Manila, disgorging the Filipino and American sailors and marines armed with automatic rifles.

The exercise is part of the annual Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training that the U.S. conducts with its allies in Asia, including the Philippines, to address maritime security, strengthen partnerships and enhance interoperability.

Officials say the maneuvers are meant to improve coordination and capabilities but are not directed at China, which has been criticized for its increasingly assertive behavior in disputed South China Sea territories.

“Whenever we do an exercise, we always train to improve our capabilities, it is not meant for whatever threat or situation that are current,” said Philippine Navy Commodore Roland Joseph Mercado.

Marine Maj. Damon Torres, commanding officer of the U.S. landing force that took part in the exercise, said the drills are a good opportunity to coordinate and gauge each country’s capabilities.