China proposes joint military drills with the Philippines
The Philippine military chief announces that if they were to be conducted, the drills would not be in the South China Sea where the two countries have clashing territorial claims.
Amid heightened tensions over disputed waters, China has extended an offer to conduct joint military drills with the Philippines, according to the Philippine armed forces chief.
The proposal was delivered informally by Beijing's ambassador to Manila and will be thoroughly considered by Philippine military chief Romeo Brawner, who revealed the proposition late on Wednesday. However, Brawner clarified that if the joint exercises proceed, they will not take place in the contested South China Sea.
"We are opening up to any country who would like to help us," Brawner expressed to reporters in Manila. He emphasized that the Philippines is open to assistance from more modern countries in its efforts to counter insurgency. While discussing the potential for defense cooperation with China, Brawner underscored the country's willingness to collaborate with any nation that can aid its security objectives.
This move by China comes at a time when the Philippines is strengthening its longstanding defense alliance with the United States. President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.'s administration has recently expanded American troops' access to Philippine military sites and hosted large-scale military exercises with the US earlier this year. As these defense ties with Washington deepen, China's offer for joint military drills presents an intriguing development in the region's geopolitical landscape.
The Philippines has long been vocal about its land dispute grievances with China, which has had severe implications for Filipino fishermen, as per the former.
In a recent incident, the Philippines claimed the presence of dozens of Chinese fishing vessels near an oil and gas-rich area within contested waters, which exacerbated tensions between the two countries and heightened concerns over maritime security in the region.
Earlier in June, the Chinese Defense Ministry said Japan and the Philippines must refrain from making claims and carrying out actions that threaten China's territorial sovereignty, maritime rights, and interests while aggravating the regional situation.
"China is a staunch defender and builder of international rule of law at sea. China has been committed to properly resolving disputes through negotiation and consultation. We urge relevant countries to stop harming China's territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests, and stop saying or doing anything that would further complicate the situation," The Defense Ministry spokesperson said in a briefing.
The spokesperson emphasized that "at present, the situation in the East China Sea and South China Sea is generally stable, but a certain country out of the region, for its selfish interests, has been busy muddying the waters through military provocation and bloc confrontation, which has exacerbated regional tensions."
In May, during a meeting between US President Joe Biden and Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos, the two discussed the necessity of countering Beijing in the South China Sea.
As China has been discussing the sovereignty of the South China Sea more openly and confidently, the US and its Asian allies have remained on high alert amid pre-existing tensions over Taiwan, further exacerbated by joint military exercises.
Back in April the US and the Philippines conducted their largest-ever military training after troops conducted a joint fire drill in the contested waters of the South China Sea. Groups of the two armies blasted a supposed enemy warship placed in disputed waters North of Manila.
Marcos indicated and emphasized that he "will not allow the Philippines to be used as a staging post for any kind of military action."