The US and the Philippines are holding their largest-ever joint military drills a day after China concluded large-scale exercises around Taiwan.
Over three days, China’s military rehearsed blockades of Taiwan in response to the island’s leader meeting the US House Speaker last week.
Washington criticised China’s display of firepower as disproportionate, while Taiwan President Tsai said it was “irresponsible” and she had the right to make visits to the US.
The US drills had been earlier planned.
Filipino and US officials say the drills show their commitment to peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region that is open and free.
Washington announced last month that their annual Balikatan exercise with the Philippines would be their largest ever – involving more than 17,000 troops, including 12,000 from the US.
The two-week Balikatan operation will also see the militaries execute a drill to blow up a mock target warship in the South China Sea – a move that could incur China’s wrath.
The exercises, however, should not be viewed as a response to developments in Taiwan, US and Filipino military officials said.
In February, Washington secured a new defence deal with Manila where four new naval bases will be established on Philippine islands close to contested waters.
Three of these bases are to the north of Luzon Island, the nearest bit of land to Taiwan besides China.
The waterways around the Philippines and in the South China Sea contain some of the world’s most valuable trade routes, and have been the subject of disputed territorial claims by China in recent years. (BBC)