The Philippine military is pushing to bolster defense ties with the US and Japan amid the Southeast Asian nation’s lingering territorial dispute with Beijing in the South China Sea.
(Bloomberg) — The Philippine military is pushing to bolster defense ties with the US and Japan amid the Southeast Asian nation’s lingering territorial dispute with Beijing in the South China Sea.
“Stronger” facilities will be built in Philippine military sites where the US was given expanded access, Armed Forces chief Romeo Brawner Jr. said at a briefing on Thursday. Manila is also working to finalize a visiting forces deal with Tokyo, he added.
“We are looking to engage the Japan Self-Defense Forces more intensely next year,” Brawner told reporters.
Washington early this year won access to four more sites under the 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, which initially covered five Philippine military bases. The new sites are located near Taiwan and the South China Sea, where Beijing and Manila are embroiled in an increasingly tense territorial dispute.
After a meeting with Brawner last month, US Indo-Pacific Command head Admiral John Aquilino signaled Washington wanted additional sites.
China has opposed the expanded military deal between the US and the Philippines. Beijing’s envoy to Manila Huang Xilian in April accused the US of seeking to “take advantage” of the new sites “to interfere in the situation across the Taiwan Strait.” Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has said the sites will not be used for “any offensive action.”
Marcos’s administration is bolstering US defense ties as it pushes back against Beijing’s expansive territorial claims in the South China Sea. The Philippines in recent weeks said it carried out resupply missions to a military outpost despite Chinese vessels’ “dangerous maneuvers” and attempts to interfere and dismantled a China-installed floating barrier in the Scarborough Shoal.
China’s coast guard last week said it drove away a Philippine Navy vessel near the disputed shoal, a day after its foreign ministry urged the Philippines to stop making “provocations” in the South China Sea.
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