MANILA Washington is this week deploying a dozen F/A-18 fighters to the Philippines, the first time it has sent so many of the aircraft there, to take part in annual military drills with a close security ally amid rising tension in the Asia-Pacific region.
The presence of the warplanes is not connected to tensions on the Korean peninsula, a Philippine army spokesman said.
"These exercises were planned more than a year ago, well ahead of what is now happening in the region," Major Emmanuel Garcia said.
The United States plans to send a missile defense system to protect Pacific island Guam, where it has a large military base, after North Korea threatened to launch nuclear attacks on the North American mainland over disagreements on its atomic program.
The bilateral military activities will begin on Friday with 8,000 American and Filipino troops staging mock battles and simulating disaster responses, army spokesman Garcia said.
The war games are being held to test the two allies' defense plans based on the Mutual Defense Treaty, an important link in Washington's chain of security alliances in the Asia-Pacific region. The U.S. has similar military arrangements with South Korea, Japan, Singapore and Australia.
"There will be table top exercises on how the militaries of the two countries would respond to a destructive typhoon as well as in the event of a major ship collision on the high seas," Garcia said, adding the combat aspect would showcase the capability of the U.S. Navy's multi-role fighters.
The Philippines lost its fighter capability around a decade ago after retiring its fleet of Vietnam War-era F-5A/Bs.
(Reporting by Manuel Mogato; Editing by Daniel Magnowski)