Marines in P'ppines for war games

Monday, September 15, 2003 Posted: 0440 GMT (12:40 PM HKT)

SUBIC BAY, Philippines (AP) -- About 1,500 U.S. Marines have arrived aboard three ships at a former American naval base for a week-long exercise to bolster regional security.

Their arrival at Subic Bay, northwest of Manila, is part of a series of planned bilateral military drills and is not connected with U.S. President George W. Bush's visit next month, officials said Sunday.

"This is a regular exercise in preparation for any future contingency," Philippine navy Cdr. Geronimo Malabanan said.

The United States has been working closely with the 120,000-strong Philippine military, which has been battling Muslim separatists and communist rebels for three decades.

Last year, a U.S.-backed military offensive drove the Abu Sayyaf, a Muslim extremist group notorious for beheadings and kidnappings, from their main jungle bases.

The Marines, from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit based in Okinawa, Japan, will take part in joint exercises that will include live-fire training with small arms and artillery, air support operations involving troop movements and aerial firing, and ship-to-shore landings.

Meanwhile, President Bush is to make an eight-hour stop in Manila on October 18 en route to the APEC summit in Thailand, officials said.

He will hold talks with President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, one of Bush's closest allies in Asia.

The issues to be discussed include anti-terrorism; political and economic cooperation; and Washington's pledge to help in planned peace talks between Manila and Muslim separatist guerrillas in the southern Philippines.


Bron : CCN World

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