Japan, Australia join Philippines-US military exercises

Annual US-Philippines military exercises involving thousands of troops will be expanded for the first time to include other countries. Japanese and Australian forces were invited to join what will be the 34th edition of the war games, Reuters said. The Philippines and the United States have been holding the “Balikatan” (shoulder-to-shoulder) drills annually to test the readiness of their militaries to respond to threats that include natural disasters and militant extremist attacks. The US embassy in Manila said in a statement on Thursday that Australia and Japan, two US allies with strategic partnerships with the Philippines, would join the exercises. The maneuvers will take place in multiple locations on the main island of Luzon, starting on May 7.