Friday, February 3, 2023

With an eye on China, the Philippines allows the US greater access to its bases

Eye on China, Philippines gives US greater access to its bases

 Their defense chiefs said on Thursday that the Philippines has given the United States more access to its military bases. This comes as tensions over Taiwan and China's growing assertiveness in the disputed South China Sea are getting worse.

In a joint news conference held at the Philippine military headquarters in Manila, US defense secretary Lloyd Austin and Philippines defense secretary Carlito Galvez announced that the United States would be granted access to four additional locations under the 2014 Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).

Washington would close the gap in the arc of US alliances that runs from South Korea and Japan in the north to Australia in the south with the help of the agreement.

Austin referred to the Philippine decision as a "big deal" as he and his counterpart reaffirmed their commitment to strengthening their alliance. Austin was in the Philippines for talks as the US seeks to expand its security options to prevent China from attacking Taiwan's self-rule.

Austin said, "Our alliance makes both of our democracies more secure and helps uphold a free and open Indo-Pacific." Her visit came after that of US vice president Kamala Harris in November, when she stopped at Palawan island in the South China Sea. He stated, "We discussed concrete actions to address destabilizing activities in the waters surrounding the Philippines, including the West Philippine Sea, and we continue to be committed to strengthening our mutual capacities to resist armed attack."

That's one way we're trying to make our alliance more up-to-date. Additionally, given that the People's Republic of China is advancing its illegitimate claims in the West Philippine Sea, these efforts are especially significant," he added.

China claimed that expanding the United States' access to Philippine military bases would undermine regional stability and increase tensions. Mao Ning, a spokesperson for China's foreign ministry, stated, "This is an act that escalates tensions in the region and endangers regional peace and stability." Countries in the region should keep an eye on this and avoid being used by the US. The United States would have access to nine additional military bases thanks to the EDCA's additional sites. Over $82 million has been allocated for existing site infrastructure by the United States.

The EDCA grants the US access to Philippine military bases for the purpose of joint training, equipment prepositioning, and the construction of facilities like runways, fuel storage, and military housing, but not for a long-term presence.

The locations that would be made accessible to Americans were not specified by Austin and Galvez. According to the former head of the Philippine military, the United States had requested access to bases on Palawan and the main northern island of Luzon, which are located close to the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. Austin also met with the president of the Philippines, Ferdinand Marcos, and promised him support. He stated, "We are prepared to assist you in any way we can.


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