(Bloomberg) -- Philippines and US forces will sink a target ship, retake an island and sail in waters facing the South China Sea in joint military drills that will start next week against the backdrop of maritime tensions with Beijing.

The exercises will “demonstrate our combat-readiness and showcase US and Philippines armed forces’ interoperability,” Colonel Michael Logico, who’s one of the organizers, told foreign correspondents in Manila on Wednesday.

Key drills will be held in Philippine areas near Taiwan and South China Sea, where Manila and Beijing are embroiled in an increasingly tense territorial dispute. Logico said the exercises are not directed at China.

The annual war games, called Balikatan — a Filipino word that translates to shoulder-to-shoulder — will take place from April 22 to May 10 with around 16,770 personnel expected to participate. It comes more than a week after President Joe Biden reaffirmed the US’ “ironclad” commitment to the Philippines and Japan in the first trilateral summit of the nations’ leaders at the White House.

Australian and French troops will take part in some of the drills, while representatives from 14 countries including from Japan, India and Europe will observe, Logico said.

“Assuming everyone arrives, this will be the biggest,” yet of the annual drills, Logico said. Philippine civilian government agencies will also participate in cyber defense and information warfare exercises.

In a first for the yearly war games, US and Philippine navies and coast guards will sail beyond 12 nautical miles off the province of Palawan, which faces the South China Sea, Logico said. The French Navy will also participate in the maritime exercise, he said.

In the northern province of Ilocos Norte, close to Taiwan, the troops will again simulate the sinking of an enemy ship, a decommissioned Philippine Navy vessel.

Armed forces from both countries plan to simulate the retaking of three islands, two of them in northern Philippines. That’s to prepare for a scenario if “someone takes” one of our islands, “we retake it back,” Logico said.

“With or without China — let’s say for example in a parallel universe China did not exist — we would still be doing the exercises,” Logico said.

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