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The tensions between China and the Philippines over the South China Sea have hit another snag. The Philippines and the US have begun their annual war games exercises. Close to 7, 000 soldiers from both countries are participating in the 2010 Balikatan drill.
U.S. Balikatan 2012 Exercise Director, U.S. Marine Corp. Brig. Gen. Frederick Padilla, left, shakes hands with Philippine military chief Gen. Jesse Dellosa during the opening of an annual military drill called Balikatan or shoulder-to-shoulder at Camp Aguinaldo, military headquarters in suburban Quezon City, north of Manila, Philippines on Monday April 16, 2012.
But as the troops get set to enter waters off Palawan Island in the South China Sea, many fear the military maneuver may spark new tensions between China and the Philippines.
In joint hands, the two militaries will focus on humanitarian assistance, combat and disaster relief during the ten-day event. However the location of the exercise has neighboring countries on high alert.
Roman Casiple, political analyst, said, "The main difference of the Balikatan exercises this year is its location. It includes the oil platform Palawan and the western side of the Philippines."
The military maneuver comes after a lingering standoff as two Chinese fishing boats were harassed by the Philippine Navy near Huangyan Island a week ago. US military officials denied any connection between the exercise and the dispute.
The Philippines and the US have begun their annual war games exercises. Close to7, 000 soldiers from both countries are participating in the 2010 Balikatan drill.
Frederick Padilla, US military brigadier general, said, "Well this exercise, from our standpoint is not linked to any particular situation. It is merely an opportunity for us to work on our relationship and be able to be ready."
But the move has had some critics up in arms, fearing it could further anger Beijing. Roman Casiple, political analyst, said, "The message in Balikatan is different, because you're telling all others that we have a friend and this friend is ready to cooperate with us if there is a problem, so we don't hope there will be problems. That kind of message is something else, and I don't think the Chinese side will like it."
Coming at a sensitive time in a sensitive location, many fear the drill could spark further tensions over South China Sea.