MANILA • The United States and the Philippines are planning to return to full-scale military drills next year, after two years, and will invite Australia and the United Kingdom as observers, in another sign of the Biden administration's push to deepen ties in the Indo-Pacific and counter China's assertiveness.
America wants "to increase the complexity and scope" of its military exercises with the Philippines, and plans to invite new partners to join the drills, Admiral John Aquilino, the US Indo-Pacific Command chief, said at a briefing in Manila.
Britain, Australia and Japan are among the "like-minded" countries that could rejoin the drills as observers, Philippine military chief Jose Faustino said at the same briefing.
China does not oppose other nations' military drills, but hopes "they will not target any third party", Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said yesterday at a regular press briefing.
The ramp-up in military engagement comes after the US, UK and Australia unveiled a security partnership last month that allows Canberra to acquire nuclear-powered submarine technology.
Earlier in his term, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte wanted to end military exercises with the US, as he sought to build ties with China. The drills were cancelled last year and scaled down this year on account of the Covid-19 pandemic.