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Philippines and US to hold combat drills amidst China's aggressive behavior

Philippines and US to hold combat drills amidst China's aggressive behavior Illustrative photo (getty images)

Almost 17,000 Filipino and American troops will begin a joint three-week military exercise in the Philippines on Monday, including naval exercises in the South China Sea, where Manila and Beijing are disputing maritime borders, reports Reuters.

France and Australia, which have strengthened defense ties with Manila in the face of China's aggressive behavior in the South China Sea, will join the naval exercises, which will be held outside the territorial waters of the Philippines for the first time.

The exercises will run from April 22 to May 10.

Beijing's increased pressure in the South China Sea has caused concern in Manila, which claims the disputed maritime territory, as well as other powers operating there, including the United States.

Beijing has criticized the joint exercises, saying they increase tensions and undermine regional stability.

In 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled that Beijing's expansive claims to the sea had no basis in international law. China has rejected the ruling and built military facilities on the disputed atolls to reassert its claims.

During the drills, US troops and their Manila counterparts will simulate the retaking of enemy-occupied islands near Taiwan and in the western province of Palawan.

According to the Philippines, 16,700 troops from both sides will take part in the exercise, which will not be directed against any country.

Deterioration of relations between China and the Philippines

In recent years, relations between the Philippines and China have been tense due to the provocative behavior of the Chinese Navy in the South China Sea.

The Chinese Coast Guard periodically fires water cannons at Philippine ships in disputed waters.

In April, Presidents of the United States and the Philippines Joe Biden and Ferdinand Marcos Jr., and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida unveiled a series of agreements between the countries concluded during their meetings in Washington. In particular, they also relate to strengthening security.