China has expressed concerns over the new deal between the United States and the Philippines, warning that it could lead to an increase in military tension and endanger regional peace. The deal allows U.S. soldiers to use four additional bases in the Philippines, including one near the disputed South China Sea and another close to Taiwan, in an effort to counter Beijing’s growing assertiveness in the region.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning chastised the US for adopting a “zero-sum attitude” and increasing its military presence in the area for self-interest. She went on to say that this will ultimately lead to greater military tensions, endangering regional peace and security.
China warned on Tuesday that Washington was "endangering regional peace" with a new deal with the Philippines that will see four additional bases be used by U.S. troops. https://t.co/pGv9SwZJvy
— CBS News (@CBSNews) April 4, 2023
The Philippines and the United States have announced four new EDCA sites, which are mutually beneficial. The four sites were assessed by the Philippine military and confirmed by the U.S. Department of Defense. The deal was originally expanded to nine, but the locations were only announced on Monday after consultation with local officials.
Three of the new sites are in the northern Philippines, including a naval base and airport in Cagayan province and an army camp in neighboring Isabela province. The naval base in Cagayan’s Santa Ana is about 250 miles from Taiwan. The other site will be an air base on Balabac Island, off the southern tip of Palawan Island, near the South China Sea.
The agreement allows U.S. soldiers to rotate through the bases and also store defense equipment and supplies. However, the presence of U.S. soldiers in the Philippines remains a sensitive issue, with a long and complex history between the two countries. The United States had two major military bases in the Philippines, but they were closed in the early 1990s after growing nationalist sentiment.
The EDCA was a foreign policy adopted by former President Rodrigo Duterte, but President Ferdinand Marcos has adopted a more U.S.-friendly foreign policy and Manila has insisted he will not allow Beijing to trample on Manila’s maritime rights. The Philippines is strategically positioned in the country’s proximity to Taiwan and its surrounding waters, making it a key partner for the United States in the event of a conflict with China.
The United States and the Philippines also hold joint military exercises every year, including the Balikatan exercise, which will kick off next week and involve more than 17,000 soldiers. With the new deal in place, the United States will have a stronger presence in the region, which could escalate tensions with China.