The United States, Australia, Japan and the Philippines will hold joint naval and air drills in the disputed South China Sea on Sunday, their defense chiefs said in a statement, as they deepen ties to counter China's growing assertiveness in the region.

The exercise will take place in the disputed waterway — which Beijing claims almost entirely — days before U.S. President Joe Biden is due to hold the first trilateral summit with the leaders of the Philippines and Japan.

"Our combined defense/armed forces will conduct a Maritime Cooperative Activity within the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone on April 7, 2024," they said in a joint statement Saturday.