US deployment of 12 fighter jets to the Philippines the largest ever

Washington is this week deploying a dozen F/A-18 fighters to the Philippines, the first time it has sent so many of the aircraft there, to take part in annual military drills with a close security ally amid rising tension in the Asia-Pacific region.

The presence of the warplanes is not connected to tensions on the Korean Peninsula, a Philippine army spokesman said.

"These exercises were planned more than a year ago, well ahead of what is now happening in the region," Major Emmanuel Garcia said.

The bilateral military activities would begin today with 8,000 American and Filipino troops staging mock battles and simulating disaster responses, he said.

The war games are being held to test the two allies' defence plans based on the Mutual Defence Treaty, an important link in Washington's chain of security alliances in the Asia-Pacific region. The US has similar military arrangements with South Korea, Japan, Singapore and Australia.

"There will be table-top exercises on how the militaries of the two countries would respond to a destructive typhoon as well as in the event of a major ship collision on the high seas," Garcia said, adding the combat aspect would showcase the capability of the US Navy's multi-role fighters.

The Philippines lost its fighter capability around a decade ago after retiring its fleet of Vietnam War-era F-5A/Bs.

. Four officers of a US Navy minesweeper that ran aground on a coral reef in the Philippines are being relieved of their duties.

The US Pacific Fleet said initial findings indicated all four failed to adhere to standard navigation procedures at the time of the January 17 grounding of the Guardian. The sailors have been reassigned.

Additional reporting byAssociated Press


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