China warned on Wednesday that a deepening security alliance between the United States and the Philippines should not harm its security and territorial interests and interfere in long-simmering territorial disputes in the South China Sea.
According to the Washington Post, When asked to comment on the combat exercises between American and Filipino forces that started on Tuesday in the Philippines, the Chinese Embassy in Manila on Wednesday issued a statement by Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin, who said that such drills “should not target any third party and should be conducive to regional peace and stability.”
Wang did not say how China would respond if it concludes that the U.S.-Philippine security cooperation was hurting Beijing’s core interests.
In Washington, the U.S. and Philippine defense and foreign secretaries met on Tuesday to discuss the development of nine Philippine military camps, where American forces have been allowed to stay indefinitely under the 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement.
“These sites will support combined training exercises and interoperability between our forces to ensure that we’re even better prepared for future crises,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said. He added the U.S. was allocating more than $100 million to build infrastructure at the sites, where Americans would be stationed.
China has strongly opposed that agreement, which would allow American forces to establish military staging grounds and surveillance outposts in the northern Philippines across the sea from the Taiwan Strait and in western Philippine provinces facing the disputed South China Sea, which Beijing claims virtually in its entirety on historical grounds. Washington disputes China’s claims.
Austin said he also discussed with his Philippine counterpart, Carlito Galvez, the U.S. delivery of much-needed defense equipment, including radars, unmanned aerial systems, military transport aircraft and coastal and air defense systems to Philippines over the next five to 10 years under a security assistance roadmap.
This year’s Balikatan exercises between the treaty allies are the largest since the two sides started joint military combat-readiness exercises in the early 1990s. They will run until April 28 and involve more than 17,600 American and Filipino personnel and a small Australian contingent. About a dozen countries including Japan and India but not China were sending observers, organizers said.