The Philippines will provide the United States with expanded access to its military bases, the two countries said Thursday, which will serve as a major strategic base for US forces on the southeastern edge of the South China Sea near Taiwan.
The deal will give the US access to four more locations under an Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) dating from 2014, allowing US troops to rotate to a total of nine bases in the Philippines.
The United States has sought to expand its security options in the Indo-Pacific in recent months amid growing concerns about China’s aggressive territorial posture across the region.
Speaking during a visit to Manila on Thursday, US Defense Secretary Llyod Austin said the US and the Philippines remain committed to strengthening each other’s capabilities to resist armed attacks.
“That’s just part of what we’re doing to modernize our alliance. And it is especially important as the PRC continues its illegitimate claims in the West Philippine Sea,” Austin said, referring to China’s increased presence in waters near the Philippines.
Austin did not give the location of the bases to which the US military will gain new access.
Following the move, China warned of rising tensions in the region. The fact that the Philippines allows US access to four defense sites on its territory has “increased tension in the region and jeopardizes regional peace and stability,” a spokesman for the Philippine Foreign Ministry said Thursday.