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Philippines defense chief says military must evolve fast

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Manila, Philippines—The Philippine military must evolve fast because of threats to a “free and open” Asia-Pacific region, Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro said Friday at the end of annual exercises with the United States.

Teodoro, whose comments were made against the backdrop of a festering maritime row with China, said the military must “try to focus on actual soldiering.”

“The worst thing in a kitchen is a dull knife, and a good chef hones the knife every day,” Teodoro said.

“We will be increasing the pressure continuously for them to evolve as soon as possible into a multi-threat, multi-theater operating armed force,” he said.

The annual “Balikatan” war games, involving around 11,000 American, 5,000 Filipino and 100 Australian troops, began on April 22 and were concentrated in the northern and western parts of the archipelago nation, near the potential flashpoints of the South China Sea and Taiwan.

The area has seen increased confrontations between Chinese and Filipino vessels around shoals in the South China Sea claimed by Manila, as well as stepped-up Chinese air and naval activity around nearby self-ruled Taiwan.

Beijing claims almost the entire South China Sea despite an international ruling that its assertion has no legal basis. It deploys hundreds of coast guard, navy and other vessels to patrol the contested waters.

“No amount of malign, or for lack of a better term, perverse attempts to subvert our goal for a free and open Indo-Pacific and a rules-based international order will stop our shared advance towards upholding these internationally accepted norms come what may,” Teodoro said, using an alternative US description for the Asia-Pacific the region.

Lieutenant General Michael Cederholm, commander of the US First Marine Expeditionary Force, said the joint exercises—dubbed Balikatan or “shoulder to shoulder” in Tagalog—”directly built warfighting readiness” for the allies.

“It should also give pause to any adversary who does not believe in a free and open Pacific, who does not believe in transparency, who does not seek peaceful resolution but would seek to use force to impose their will on other sovereign nations,” he said.


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