The United States and the Philippines began extensive military drills on Tuesday, marking the largest such operations the nations have conducted jointly in decades.
Slated to run from April 11-28, the drills will include nearly 18,000 personnel, among them 12,200 from the U.S. and 5,400 Filipino troops, Politico reported. Those totals will make the month’s exercises the largest Balikatan drills ever. The name of the joint operations is Tagalog for “shoulder to shoulder.”
The operations will include live-fire drills and an offshore boat-sinking, the outlet noted. The South China Sea will provide the venue for the occasion.
The maritime region has become a hotbed of military and diplomatic tensions as China seeks to assert control of Taiwan and expand its influence in the eastern waters. Chinese warships and airplanes this month approached the island what Beijing termed a “serious warning.”
The U.S. drills with the Philippines follow comparable operations with South Korea in March and come as the Biden administration works to tighten its relations with Pacific Rim nations to counter Chinese ambitions in the region.