March 3, 2016 4:04 AM EST

The U.S. is planning joint naval exercises with Japan and India later this year in waters north of the Philippines, a decision that could provoke China as territorial disputes heat up in the nearby South China Sea.

The head of the U.S. Pacific Command Admiral Harry Harris discussed the plans at a conference in New Delhi, according to Reuters. Wednesday’s announcement came just days after China reportedly seized an atoll off the coast of the Philippines, and after Washington and Beijing traded barbs last month over the China’s militarization of an island in the Paracel chain.

China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines all have various claims to the reefs and islands in the South China Sea, through which about $5 trillion of world trade passes every year. While the U.S. has called for diplomatic resolution to the dispute, it has also conducted freedom-of-navigation tours near islands claimed by China to rebuff Beijing’s territorial claims.


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