US military to gain expanded access to Philippines bases in efforts to counter China


The Philippines will grant the United States expanded access to its military bases, giving US forces a strategic foothold in the southeastern South China Sea, close to self-ruled Taiwan, the two countries said Thursday.

The newly announced deal will give the US access to four more locations under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), which runs until 2014, and allows the US to transfer troops to nine bases across the Philippines.

Amid growing concerns about China’s aggressive territorial postures across the region, the United States has stepped up efforts to expand its Indo-Pacific security options in recent months.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who visited Manila on Thursday, said the US and the Philippines are committed to strengthening their mutual capabilities to counter armed attacks.

“It’s just part of our effort to modernize our alliance. These efforts are particularly important as the People’s Republic of China continues its illegitimate claims in the West Philippine Sea.

Austin did not provide the location of the base from which the US Army could gain new access.

Thursday’s announcement follows a wave of high-profile US military deals across the region, including plans to share defense technologies with India and plans to deploy new US naval units to the Japanese islands.

The US Marine Corps also opened a new base last week in Guam, a strategically important US island east of the Philippines. The location, known as Camp Blaz, is the first new Marine base in 70 years and is expected to one day host 5,000 Marines.

Increased access to military bases in the Philippines would position US armed forces less than 200 miles from Taiwan, a democratically-ruled island of 24 million people that the Chinese Communist Party claims as part of its sovereign territory even though it has never controlled it.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping has refused to rule out using military force to bring Taiwan under Beijing’s control, but the Biden administration has remained steadfast in its support for the island as provided by the Taiwan Relations Act, under which Washington agrees to cede the island. With the means to protect US troops without committing.

In November, US Vice President Kamala Harris visited the Philippines to discuss expanding US base access with recently elected President Ferdinand “Bong Bong” Marcos Jr. Some experts said her visit sent an ambiguous message to Beijing that the Philippines is moving closer to the United States. , reversing the trend under previous President Rodrigo Duterte.

Washington and Manila are bound by a mutual defense treaty signed in 1951 that remains in force, making it the region’s oldest bilateral treaty alliance for the United States.

In addition to expanding EDCA, the United States is helping the Philippines modernize its military and has included it as a pilot country in a maritime domain awareness program. The two countries also recently agreed to hold more than 500 activities together throughout the year.

The Philippines announced earlier this month that 16,000 Filipino and US troops will participate in the annual Balikatan exercise, scheduled for April 24 to April 27.

The exercise will include “a live-fire exercise to test the newly acquired weapons system of the United States and the Philippines,” according to a statement from the state-run Philippine News Agency.

Formal US relations with the Philippines date back to 1898, when Madrid ceded control of its colony of the Philippines to the United States as part of the Treaty of Paris, which ended the Spanish-American War.

The Philippines remained a US territory until July 4, 1946, when Washington granted it independence – but a US military presence remained in the archipelago nation.

Clark Air Force Base and Subic Bay Naval Base, which supported the US war effort in Vietnam in the 1960s and early ’70s, were home to the US military’s two largest overseas installations.

Both bases were transferred to Philippine control in the 1990s after the 1947 Military Bases Agreement between Washington and Manila expired.


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