U.S. Marines stormed a beach from the South China Sea Friday in joint military drills organized with troops from South Korea, Japan and the Philippines.
The exercises were held on an uninhabited beach in Zambales province in the Philippines, roughly 150 miles east of the Scarborough Shoal, a rocky outcrop along Manila’s coastline.
The rocky reef made headlines in 2012 when China seized the area. It has since claimed it as its own, and its fishermen and coast guard have maintained a dominant presence.
The KAMANDAG drills — the Filipino acronym for “Cooperation of the Warriors of the Sea” — began Monday and will involve some 3,500 troops through Oct. 14, the Daily Mail reported Friday.
Images showed U.S. forces conducting joint amphibious landing exercises with soldiers from South Korea, Japan and the Philippines.
Demonstrations on landing craft, weaponry and chemical agent detectors were displayed in images depicting the drills.
The joint exercises are the first of its kind under Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos, who has reversed Manila’s stance toward the U.S. previously held by the Rodrigo Duterte administration.
Duterte canceled U.S. drills and pivoted toward a more China-centric geopolitical focus.
But, in New York last month, Marcos told President Biden he appreciated the U.S.’s role in “maintaining the peace in our region.”
The joint drills come as tensions in eastern Asia are on the rise with North Korea ramping up ballistic missile testing as strained relations between the West and China persist.
China’s recent aggression around Taiwan has concerned Western officials for months, particularly following a visit to Taipei by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi that prompted a drastic increase in war games around the island.
Beijing has further frustrated regional nations in the South China Sea, like the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei, who have contested China’s overt attempts at gaining dominance over the international waters.
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