President Joe Biden is aiming to deter China by expanding the U.S. military presence in the Philippines, The New York Times reported.
The U.S. and the Philippines on Thursday announced an agreement to allow the expansion of the American military, where U.S. forces would be granted access to four more military camps in the Philippines, The Associated Press reported. It effectively gives the U.S. new ground to ramp up deterrence against China's increasingly aggressive actions toward Taiwan and in the disputed South China Sea.
The agreement between the longtime allies was made public during the visit of U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.
"This is a really big outcome," said Jacob Stokes, a senior fellow in the Indo-Pacific Security Program at the Center for a New American Society, according to the Times. "You can better mass forces and project power if you can rotate into those locations in the Philippines."
Stokes, an adviser to Biden when Biden was vice president, said the greater military presence "sends a deterrent message to China."
The Times noted that the expanded U.S. military presence in the Philippines would make rapid American troop movement to the Taiwan Strait much easier.
The newspaper pointed out that the archipelago of the Philippines lies in an arc south of Taiwan. It said the bases there would be important launch and resupply points in a war with China.
Under the new agreement, the U.S. is allowed to put military equipment and construct facilities in as many as nine locations across the Philippines. It would lead to the biggest American military presence in that country in 30 years, according to the Times.
China chided the agreement.
"The U.S. side, out of selfish interests, holds on to the zero-sum mentality and keeps strengthening military deployment in the Asia-Pacific," said Mao Ning, a Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman. "This would escalate tensions and endanger peace and stability in the region. Regional countries need to remain vigilant and avoid being coerced or used by the U.S."
The Times said the last U.S. soldiers left the Philippines in the 1990s. Foreign troops are banned from being permanently being based in the Philippines by that nation's constitution.
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