Despite noisy domestic protests the annual war games in the Philippines with the US and Philippine armed forces deploying over 7000 men is going ahead for the rest of April.
This year’s exercise, dubbed Balikatan, takes place, however, in a new context, illustrated by a stand-off taking place right now as the joint forces swing into action.
The Philippine navy attempted to make arrests when it found eight Chinese vessels taking fish and coral from disputed waters, the Scarborough Shoal. Chinese warships were quickly on the scene.
China is providing the new context in the South China sea as it seeks to stamp its authority on the region, which in places is disputed by six nations, the others being Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Brunei.