Despite the focus on wars in Ukraine and Gaza, the US military buildup around China is still in full swing.

The US is increasing military exercises with its allies in the Asia Pacific that are meant as a message to China, the commander of the US Navy’s Japan-based Seventh Fleet told The Washington Times.

Vice Adm. Karl O. Thomas said the stepped-up exercises were meant to “deter” China, but tensions have only increased in the region, especially in the South China Sea, making conflict more likely. Thomas said he believes “being forward and having many nations working together … is a grand deterrent effect that we really try to amplify.”

“Everything we do, whether it’s being present and forward or whether it’s doing exercises with our like-minded allies and partners, it’s all about deterring aggression,” the admiral added.

Over the past year, the US has bolstered its alliance with the Philippines and increased joint military activity in the South China Sea, where China, the Philippines, and several other Southeast Asian nations have overlapping claims.

The US has committed to going to war over the dispute by affirming that the US-Philippine Mutual Defense Treaty applies to attacks on Philippine vessels in the South China Sea.

The increased military ties between Washington and Manila coincided with a significant uptick in dangerous encounters between Chinese and Philippine vessels near disputed reefs.

Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who came into office last year, has taken a much more aggressive approach in pushing back on China’s claims than his predecessor, Rodrigo Duterte. China has also demonstrated that it will not back down in the face of a growing US military presence.

The US has been encouraging other allies in the region to increase military ties with the Philippines, including Japan and Australia. France, Canada, and other Western nations are also increasing their presence in the contentious South China Sea.

Despite the focus on supporting wars in Ukraine and Gaza, the US military buildup aimed at China is still in full swing, which also includes establishing more bases in the region, plans to deploy new missile systems, and unprecedented support for Taiwan. US military officials have openly stated that they’re preparing to fight a future war with China.