Philippines, US Repel Mock Foreign Invaders in Annual Military Exercises

US soldiers fire 155mm and 105mm Howitzers during a live fire exercise in the annual joint military exercises between US and Philippine troops called "Balikatan" or shoulder-to-shoulder, at Laoag, Ilocos Norte, Philippines, May 6, 2024. REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez
US soldiers fire 155mm and 105mm Howitzers during a live fire exercise in the annual joint military exercises between US and Philippine troops called "Balikatan" or shoulder-to-shoulder, at Laoag, Ilocos Norte, Philippines, May 6, 2024. REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez
TT

Philippines, US Repel Mock Foreign Invaders in Annual Military Exercises

US soldiers fire 155mm and 105mm Howitzers during a live fire exercise in the annual joint military exercises between US and Philippine troops called "Balikatan" or shoulder-to-shoulder, at Laoag, Ilocos Norte, Philippines, May 6, 2024. REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez
US soldiers fire 155mm and 105mm Howitzers during a live fire exercise in the annual joint military exercises between US and Philippine troops called "Balikatan" or shoulder-to-shoulder, at Laoag, Ilocos Norte, Philippines, May 6, 2024. REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez

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, said Reuters.
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 destabilization 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.
'NOT FOR MESSAGING'
US Marines Lieutenant General Michael Cederholm, commander of joint task force Balikatan, told reporters on Monday the exercises were meant to improve how the forces operate alongside each other and were not directed against a specific adversary.
"We don't do this for any third party. We don't do this for messaging. We do this to create interoperability," Cederholm said, without mentioning China.
The main exercises will culminate with a "maritime strike" on Wednesday, in which the combined forces of the Philippines and the United States will sink a decommissioned Philippine navy ship. The annual drills will officially end on Friday.
Other exercises have included simulations of retaking occupied islands and a multilateral sail with France and Australia in the South China Sea, inside the Philippines' exclusive economic zone.
Security engagements between Manila and Washington have increased under Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who has allowed Americans to access more Philippine bases under an enhanced defense cooperation agreement, including facilities close to Taiwan and facing the South China Sea.
The United States and Philippines also began joint patrols in the South China Sea last year.
US officials, including President Joe Biden, have affirmed its "ironclad" commitment to defend the Philippines against any armed attack under their 1951 mutual defense treaty.



Iran Top Court Overturns Rapper Toomaj Salehi’s Death Sentence, Lawyer Says

People hold placards bearing portraits of Iranian rapper Toomaj Salehi, who is arrested in Iran, and portraits of children (L), who were killed during the protests in Iran, during a rally in support of Iranian women in Istanbul, on November 26, 2022. (AFP)
People hold placards bearing portraits of Iranian rapper Toomaj Salehi, who is arrested in Iran, and portraits of children (L), who were killed during the protests in Iran, during a rally in support of Iranian women in Istanbul, on November 26, 2022. (AFP)
TT

Iran Top Court Overturns Rapper Toomaj Salehi’s Death Sentence, Lawyer Says

People hold placards bearing portraits of Iranian rapper Toomaj Salehi, who is arrested in Iran, and portraits of children (L), who were killed during the protests in Iran, during a rally in support of Iranian women in Istanbul, on November 26, 2022. (AFP)
People hold placards bearing portraits of Iranian rapper Toomaj Salehi, who is arrested in Iran, and portraits of children (L), who were killed during the protests in Iran, during a rally in support of Iranian women in Istanbul, on November 26, 2022. (AFP)

Iran's supreme court has overturned Iranian rapper Toomaj Salehi's death sentence on charges linked to the country's 2022-23 period of unrest, his lawyer wrote in a post on the X social media platform on Saturday.

"The death sentence of #Toomaj_Salehi was overturned and based on the appeal decision ...of the Supreme Court, the case will be referred to (another) branch for consideration," attorney Amir Raisian wrote on X.

There was no immediate official confirmation of the ruling.

Salehi's songs supported protests sparked by the death in police custody of Mahsa Amini, a young Kurdish Iranian woman arrested for allegedly wearing an "improper" hijab.