Philippines, US fire at 'invasion' force in annual military drills


US and Philippine armed forces fired missiles and artillery to thwart a simulated invasion in the Philippines' northern waters facing Taiwan on Monday, in a show of military force and strengthening ties as regional tensions rise.

About 200 soldiers took turns defending the shores of the coastal city of Laoag in Ilocos province, launching Javelin missiles and firing howitzers and machine guns to repel an unnamed enemy trying to storm the beach.

US and Filipino military personnel sank five floating pontoons standing in for amphibious landing ships as part of their annual exercises called Balikatan, or "shoulder-to-shoulder".

The annual drills, which involve about 16,000 Filipino and American troops and began last month, will run until May 10. They come at a time of escalating tensions between the Philippines and China in the South China Sea.

Last week, the Philippines accused China of using water cannons against their vessels around the disputed Scarborough Shoal, which damaged naval vessels and injured people onboard.

On Monday, Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr said his country would not retaliate in kind, saying the Philippines did not want to raise tensions.

The exercises have irked China, which has warned of destabilisation when countries outside the region "flex muscles and stoke confrontation".

Several of the drills this year were set in islands and provinces facing Taiwan and the South China Sea. Laoag City is about 408 km (254 miles) from Taiwan's southernmost point.

More from International