Soldiers from Australia, Japan to participate in U.S.-Philippines joint exercises

Huang Panyue

MANILA, May 7 (Xinhua) -- Troops from Australia and Japan will participate in the annual joint exercises between U.S. and Philippine militaries that will officially kick off on Monday, a Philippine military spokesman said on Sunday.

Maj. Celeste Sayson, Balikatan public affairs director, said 2,600 U.S. troops and 2,800 Philippine troops will participate in this year's drills, adding that 80 soldiers from Australia and 20 from Japan will also participate in the exercises.

The annual exercises called Balikatan or "Shoulder-to-Shoulder" will run until May 19 on multiple locations in the Philippine main Luzon Island and the Visayas region in central Philippines.

Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told reporters that Balikatan 2017 will focus on humanitarian and disaster response (HADR) and honing counterterrorism skills.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines has invited military forces from several other nations to be part of the international observers, Sayson said, adding that troops from Australia and Japan will participate in all major training events.

In addition, the participants will also train to prepare their ability to respond to natural disasters and deliver humanitarian aid, she said.

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