US boosts troops in Philip­pines amid South China Sea ten­sion

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD - By ZHOU WA zhouwa@ chi­nadaily. com. cn

The United States has ac­cel­er­ated ex­pan­sion of its mil­i­tary pres­ence in the Asia- Pa­cific, as its de­fense chief on Fri­day reaf­firmed the progress Wash­ing­ton and Manila have made to al­low a big­ger US mil­i­tary foot­print in the Philip­pines.

Chuck Hagel held talks on in­creas­ing ro­ta­tional pres­ence by US troops in the South­east Asian coun­try with Pres­i­dent Benigno Aquino III amid Manila’s ten­sions with Bei­jing over the South China Sea, AFP re­ported.

An­a­lysts warned, how­ever, that the Philip­pines risks los­ing part of its sovereignty by agree­ing to ex­pand the US mil­i­tary pres­ence in the coun­try, while Wash­ing­ton is send­ing a danger­ous sig­nal to the re­gion that it sup­ports the Philip­pines’ claims on the South China Sea dis­putes.

It may be “a strate­gic mis­take by Manila to in­vite the US troops back to the coun­try,” said Wu Shi­cun, di­rec­tor of the National In­sti­tute for South China Sea Stud­ies.

On Wed­nes­day, the Philip­pines’ Chief of Staff Gen­eral Em­manuel Bautista said that its mil­i­tary will stick to a “no con­fronta­tion” pol­icy even as it strength­ens its forces with more weapons and looks for­ward to a larger US mil­i­tary pres­ence in the coun­try.

China’s Mi n i s t r y of National De­fense said that the coun­try fi rmly op­poses any mea­sures that will com­pli­cate or es­ca­late the sit­u­a­tion in the South China Sea.

Wu said that there’s al­ready in­ter­nal crit­i­cism on Manila’s de­ci­sion to play up the South China Sea dis­pute.

“Invit­ing more US troops back in the coun­try will trig­ger more do­mes­tic pres­sure for Aquino,” he added.

Ahead of Hagel’s visit, a large num­ber of pro­test­ers ral­lied in front of the US em­bassy in Manila on Thurs­day, say­ing the con­tin­u­ing US mil­i­tary de­ploy­ment will fur­ther heighten ten­sions in the re­gion, Press TV re­ported.

To avoid an­ger­ing lo­cal peo­ple, whose Se­nate voted out the US amid anti- US sen­ti­ment two decades ago, Hagel said that Wash­ing­ton would not seek per­ma­nent out­posts.

The US has re­cent ly in­creased its an­nual mil­i­tary aid to the Philip­pines from $ 30 mil­lion to $ 50 mil­lion, which marks the high­est level since 2000.

Wash­ing­ton also in­creased the fre­quency of joint ex­er­cises with the Philip­pines and with other coun­tries in the re­gion in re­cent years.

Th­ese ac­tions are all in line with Wash­ing­ton’s Asiare­bal­anc­ing strat­egy and help it add more mil­i­tary pres­ence, said Xu Lip­ing, a re­searcher on Asia- Pa­cific stud­ies at the Chi­nese Acad­emy of So­cial Sciences.

“Aim­ing for more space in bar­gain­ing with China on the South China Sea dis­putes, Manila has shown more sup­port on in­creas­ing US mil­i­tary pres­ence in the coun­try re­cently,” Xu said. “But the sup­port won’t last, since the ma­jor­ity of lo­cal peo­ple still have bad mem­o­ries of US troops in the coun­try.”

The US and the Philip­pines be­gan ne­go­ti­a­tions on ex­pand­ing ro­tat­ing US mil­i­tary’s pres­ence on Aug 15, and the pro­posal would al­low more US troops, air­craft and ships to tem­po­rar­ily pass through the Philip­pines. He Liu con­trib­uted to the story.

AARON FAVILA / AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

US De­fense Sec­re­tary Chuck Hagel an­swers why the US is in­creas­ing its mil­i­tary pres­ence in the Philip­pines dur­ing his visit on Fri­day in Manila.

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