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US, India and Japan plan military exercises in Philippine Sea

Military exercises in the Philippine Sea

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NEW DELHI, India In a move that is likely to upset China, the US, India and Japan have decided to conduct joint military exercises in the Philippine Sea, an American official has said.> Big News Network

Dates haven't been disclosed as yet for the exercises which are to be held in an area where China and the US are locked in an increasingly tense territorial standoff.

The exercises are part of an annual event called Malabar between the US and Indian navies.

The annual event was expanded in 2014 when Japanese navy was included in a sign of closer military cooperation between the three countries.

US Pacific Commander Admiral Harry Harris announced the location of this year's exercises at a conference in New Delhi Thursday.

The Indian navy said Japan would participate, but declined to confirm where the event would occur.

Harris said freedom of the seas was a fundamental right of all nations in a thinly veiled criticism of Beijing.

"While some countries seek to bully smaller nations through intimidation and coercion, I note with admiration India's example of a peaceful resolution of disputes with your neighbours in the waters of the Indian Ocean," he said.

"We are ready for you," Harris said, referring to India. "We need you."

China on Thursday did not openly object to the exercise. Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said: "We hope the cooperation of relevant countries will benefit regional peace and security, and not harm the interests of third parties."

Washington has recently notched up its criticism over what it calls China's growing "militarization" of the disputed South China Sea.

The South China Sea is at the centre of bitter regional disputes between many countries. Along with China and the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims on the waters, through which about $5 trillion in trade is shipped every year.

US warships and aircraft have undertaken a series of operations in the region to challenge Beijing's moves. In that backdrop, American officials are seeking to stitch Asian military powers into closer collaboration.

Earlier this week, the US warned China against militarisation of the South China Sea, saying there would be consequences

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