MANILA: Filipino and US troops began training exercises this week, the Philippines military said on Wednesday, despite President Rodrigo Duterte’s threats to end joint war games and kick American soldiers out of his country as he edges closer to Beijing.

Duterte has called for the withdrawal of American troops from his country. He also announced an end to joint war games after an amphibious exercise involving several hundred US and Filipino marines finished last month.

But on Wednesday, military spokesmen told AFP about an ongoing month-long joint training exercise involving around 30-40 Filipino solders and an unspecified number of US Special Forces.

“This is a very small bilateral activity,” Filipino military spokesman Brigadier-General Restituto Padilla said, referring to the exercise that kicked off on Monday on the island of Palawan in the west of the archipelago.

Philippine Army spokesman Colonel Benjamin Hao earlier told reporters that the exercise was intended “to test the basic war fighting skills of our soldiers [and] to improve the relationship of both armed forces”.

Published in Dawn, November 17th, 2016

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