US-Philippine war games open under China-leaning Duterte

Philippine military exercise director Lt. Gen. Emmanuel Salamat, left, and US Lt. Gen. Lawrence Nicholson, commander of the 3rd US marine expeditionary force, unfurl the joint US-Philippines military exercise flag at a ceremony in Manila on Monday, May 7. (AFP)
Updated 07 May 2018
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US-Philippine war games open under China-leaning Duterte

MANILA: The US and Philippine militaries launched major exercises Monday aimed at fighting global terrorism, while staying mostly quiet on Beijing’s reported installation of missiles in the disputed South China Sea.
The annual maneuvers are the second to be held under Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who has set aside long-simmering friction over competing claims to the waters in order to court Chinese trade and investment.
The 12-day exercises began less than a week after US network CNBC reported that the Chinese military had over the past month installed anti-ship and air-to-air defenses on islands also claimed by the Philippines.
“This exercise was scheduled whether those missiles were there or not,” US Lt. Gen. Lawrence Nicholson told reporters in Manila.
“The exercises really have very little to do with recent developments in the area,” said Nicholson, the US director of the “Balikatan” (“shoulder-to-shoulder“) maneuvers.
The South China Sea issue has been brewing for years, with Vietnam, Malaysia and others also staking claims to waters with vital global shipping routes and what are believed to be significant oil and natural gas deposits.
Nicholson’s Filipino counterpart, Lt. General Emmanuel Salamat, sidestepped the issue while highlighting the need to improve the capabilities of Filipino forces to fight terrorism.
Duterte’s predecessor, Benigno Aquino, had used the exercises to boost the Philippine military’s capability to deter China, which claims most of the South China Sea.
Duterte refocused the joint exercises after he was elected in 2016, steering them toward addressing domestic problems.
Last year Balikatan focused mainly on honing humanitarian responses to the Philippines’ frequent natural disasters.
This year’s terror focus comes after Daesh group supporters seized the southern Philippine city of Marawi in May last year, triggering a five-month battle with US-backed Filipino troops that killed some 1,200 people.
“This is focusing mostly on countering terrorism ... that will allow us to respond to a similar scenario in the future,” Salamat said.
The US and Australia have pledged to provide more training and assistance to Filipino troops, who struggled in Marawi’s urban battleground after decades fighting low-intensity rural-based communist and Muslim insurgencies.
Most of the 5,000 Filipino troops and 3,000 US counterparts taking part in the maneuvers are from special operations units who will train in mock urban terrain to respond to “crises and calamities, either natural or man-made,” Salamat said.
Australia and Japan are also sending a total of 42 military observers to Balikatan, he added.


Sweden asks for detention of WikiLeaks’ Assange

Updated 20 May 2019
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Sweden asks for detention of WikiLeaks’ Assange

  • Assange was evicted last month from the Ecuadorian Embassy where he had been holed up since 2012
  • The Australian secret-spiller also faces a US extradition warrant for allegedly conspiring to hack into a Pentagon computer

COPENHAGEN: A Swedish prosecutor says she has requested a detention order against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is jailed in Britain.
Prosecutor Eva-Marie Persson says if the Swedish court decided to detain Assange “on probable cause suspected for rape ... I will issue a European Arrest Warrant.”
Assange, who was evicted last month from the Ecuadorian Embassy where he had been holed up since 2012, was arrested by British police on April 11 and is currently serving a 50-week sentence for jumping bail in 2012.
The Australian secret-spiller also faces a US extradition warrant for allegedly conspiring to hack into a Pentagon computer.
Persson said Monday that British authorities will decide any conflict between a European arrest warrant and US extradition request for Assange.