The US and the Philippines will conduct their largest-ever annual military exercises together in April amid heightened tensions with China, Reuters reported Tuesday.
The annual Balikatan exercises will be held from April 11 to 28, and about 17,600 military personnel will take part, including 12,000 US troops. About 111 Australian soldiers will also take part.
“This is officially the largest Balikatan exercise,” said Philippine Col. Michael Logico, a spokesman for the exercises. He said the drills will include “live-fire exercises into the water” for the first time. The previous largest Balikatan exercise took place in 2015 when more than 11,000 troops participated.
The planned exercises come after the US signed a deal with the Philippine government of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., which gives the US access to four more military bases in the Philippines, part of Washington’s military buildup against China.