Palace: Nothing wrong in excluding U.S. from China-ASEAN drills in S. China Sea

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Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 3) Malacañang on Friday said there is nothing wrong with China pushing to exclude the United States from military drills with members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in the South China Sea.

"We find nothing objectionable to the fact that China would want to exclude non-Asians from the military exercise. I think the contemplation of Chinese authorities, is to have military cooperation amongst neighbors," Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a press briefing in Malaybalay, Bukidnon.

Roque said the United States is far from China and the other ASEAN countries.

"If the intention is to build stronger military forces who are neighbors, then the United States would be out of place," he added.

Friday reports said that China wants military exercises and energy exploration with ASEAN member states in the disputed waters, without the U.S.

The U.S. has increased its patrols to ensure freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea, where trillions of dollars worth of global trade transit yearly. U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis said in May that the United States will continue a "a steady drumbeat" of naval exercises in the region.

China has strongly opposed the United States' military presence in the waters. But China has also deployed military forces and weapons in artificial islands it built in the South China Sea including airstrips, bomber planes, and missile systems.

The ASEAN Foreign Ministers recently took note of a single draft negotiation text for the code of conduct on the South China Sea — amid some of their member countries' expressions of concern over China's alleged militarization of the area.

READ: China, ASEAN leaders OK draft negotiating text for South China Sea code of conduct

Of the 10 ASEAN member-states, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines have rival claims to China's in the sea.