U.S.-China rivalry: Military presence in Philippines

manila philippines –

Chinese diplomats, in closed-door talks with Filipino diplomats in Manila on Thursday, expressed strong opposition to expanding the U.S. military presence in the Philippines, Philippine officials said. emphasized the fierce competition between the United States and China in

A senior Philippine official who attended the meeting told the Associated Press that China vehemently objected, speaking on condition of anonymity for not being authorized to discuss what happened at the start of the two-day talks. In response, a Filipino diplomat said the decision to allow an expanded U.S. military presence was in the country’s national interest and would enhance the Philippines’ ability to respond to natural disasters, and said it was not aimed at China. suggested.

China’s Vice Foreign Minister Sun Weidong and Philippines’ Vice Foreign Minister Teresa Lazaro led the talks, which aimed to assess the overall relationship between the two countries amid difficult issues.Taiwan Strait and escalation spats in the South China Sea.

Friday’s discussions will focus on a long-running territorial issue in the disputed waterway, according to Manila’s foreign ministry.

The back-to-back talks are the first under President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who took office in June. He made an official visit to Beijing and held talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping in January, urging the two countries to expand ties, advance talks on potential joint oil and gas exploration, and amicably manage territorial disputes. agreed.

In early February, the Marcos administration announced that rotating batches of U.S. troops would be allowed to remain indefinitely in four more Philippine military camps. It is in addition to the five regional bases previously specified below.

Marcos said Wednesday that the four new military installations will include an area in the northern Philippines. I let

Americans will also gain access to military areas in the western Philippines state of Palawan, Marcos said, adding that U.S. military presence under the 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement will strengthen coastal defenses. He added that it was intended to

China claims Palawan faces the South China Sea and is an important passageway for global trade, but a United Nations-backed arbitration tribunal ruled in 2016 that historic claims include the 1982 United Nations Law of the Sea. It ruled that there was no legal basis under the treaty.

China continues to defy, rejecting judgments recognized by Washington and other Western governments.

Asked to respond to the Philippines’ decision, China’s foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said at a news conference in Beijing on Wednesday that defense cooperation between states “must be conducive to regional peace and stability, We must not target or harm our national interests,” he said. third party. “

Without naming the Philippines, Wang warned countries in the region to “stay vigilant and avoid being coerced or taken advantage of by the United States.”

A statement recently issued by the Chinese embassy in Manila was more outspoken, saying that the Manila government’s security cooperation with Washington “will drag the Philippines into the abyss of geopolitical conflict, ultimately damaging its economic development. warned.

The territorial dispute remained a major irritant in the relationship early in the Marcos administration’s six-year tenure, and last year alone the Marcos government responded to China’s increasingly aggressive behavior in disputed waters. Filed at least 77 of the more than 200 diplomatic protests by the Philippines. .

This includes the Feb. 6 incident where a Chinese Coast Guard vessel aimed a military-grade laser at a disputed shoal where some crew members of a Philippine patrol vessel were temporarily disarmed. I was blinded. Marcos summoned the Chinese ambassador in Manila to express concern over the incident, but Beijing said the Philippine vessel had entered Chinese territorial waters and that the coast guard had used a harmless laser device to monitor the vessel’s movements. Stated.

The Biden administration has stepped up its arc of military alliances in the Indo-Pacific to counter China, including future confrontations over Taiwan. The US is consistent with the Philippines’ efforts to strengthen its territorial defenses amid its dispute with China in the South China Sea.

The United States on Thursday denied China’s claims that U.S. forces had driven a U.S. guided-missile destroyer out of operations around a disputed island in the South China Sea. was not expelled.

China’s Southern Theater Command previously said the USS Milius had been deployed “around the Paracel Islands, which China calls Xisha, after it illegally intruded into China’s Xisha territorial waters without the Chinese government’s approval and undermined the peace and stability of southern China. and kept it away from the waters of the Ocean. “

Two senior Philippine officials told the Associated Press that the Philippine government plans to extend the enhanced defense cooperation agreement. Forbidden to get involved.

Signed in 2014, the agreement is initially valid for 10 years and will automatically come into force unless terminated by either party by giving one year’s written notice.

The two officials spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

Contributed by Associated Press journalist Joel Carpitan.

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