NOS Nieuws•vandaag, 08:47
US troops will have access to four more military bases in the Philippines, the US Department of Defense reports.
This extends the defense pact EDCA (Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement) between the two countries. The expansion was announced during a visit to Manila by US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.
This strengthens the ties between the two countries. The relationship deteriorated significantly under the previous Philippine president, Rodrigo Duterte, who focused more on China. The new president Ferdinand Marcos, who was installed last year, is now reversing this.
The expansion of the pact gives the US access to nine military bases. The United States is investing more than $82 million in the five existing locations. These should support economic growth in local Filipino communities, a statement said.
The location of the new locations has not been disclosed. The US is said to have requested access to Luzon, the island closest to Taiwan, and to Palawan Island, opposite the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.
The US and China are engaged in a geopolitical battle over the South China Sea. Beijing believes that almost the entire sea should be under direct Chinese influence, while the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also claim a part.
In the region, there are especially great tensions between China and Taiwan. The Chinese army regularly conducts exercises near the island state. The Chinese government sees Taiwan as a renegade province. The Taiwanese have a strong ally in the US.
Last year, top American politician Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan, which was seen as a provocation by China. In Beijing’s eyes, any visit to Taiwan by a foreign administrator or politician is a provocation.
In a possible conflict with China, the close cooperation with the Philippines can be of strategic importance due to the proximity of the archipelago to Taiwan. It is the second time in a short time that the United States has strengthened military ties in Asia.
That happened to Japan last month. Among other things, there will be a new naval unit on the Japanese island of Okinawa, also not far from Taiwan. The Americans already have a large base there and will expand the existing army.
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