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China on Balikatan: US-PH cooperation must not interfere in sea dispute

The joint exercises between the Philippines and the US should not interfere with the disputes in the South China Sea, China said on Monday.

Asked to comment on this year's Balikatan exercises, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Wang Wenbin said cooperation between countries should not target any third party.

"Exchange and cooperation between relevant countries should not target any third party and should be conducive to regional peace and stability," Wang said at a press conference.

"The US-Philippines military cooperation must not interfere in South China Sea disputes, still less harm China’s territorial sovereignty, maritime rights and interests and security interests," he added.

The Philippines and the US will start their biggest military exercise on Tuesday to develop interoperability and improve capability.

Over 17,600 servicemen—5,400 Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and 12,200 US military personnel—will participate in the 38th Balikatan exercise scheduled from April 11 to 28.

According to AFP spokesperson Colonel Medel Aguilar, 111 military personnel from the Australian Defense Force would also participate in the exercises.

More personnel from 12 countries would also serve as observers in Balikatan, he added.

The military and naval forces will work on maritime security, amphibious operations, live-fire training, urban and aviation operations, cyber defense, counter-terrorism, as well as humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. 

"This year’s iteration includes a bilateral command post exercise that will strengthen the Allies’ ability to plan, coordinate, and provide command and control of forces together against a range of scenarios and simulated challenges," the US embassy said.

"This training event will also enable the AFP and the U.S. military to refine tactics, techniques, and procedures related to maritime security, and deconflict fires and maneuver in a shared and contested battlespace," it added. —NB, GMA Integrated News