Report: Philippines May Allow Expanded US Military Presence

Posted January 26th, 2012 at 3:35 am (UTC-5)
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The United States is reportedly negotiating a deal with the Philippines to expand the U.S. military presence in the Pacific island nation.

The Washington Post Thursday quoted officials from both governments as saying the negotiations are in the early stages, but that both sides are favorably inclined to a deal.

The paper said the two sides are considering operating U.S. Navy ships from the Philippines, deploying troops on a rotational basis and staging more frequent joint exercises. But the deal is not expected to involve the creation of any U.S.-only military bases.

About 600 U.S. special operation troops are currently stationed in the Philippines to advise local forces in their fight with al-Qaida-linked rebels. U.S. forces were tossed out of a large naval base in the country in 1992 when lawmakers failed to reach a deal to extend their stay.

The report quotes unnamed Philippine officials as saying their priority is to strengthen maritime defenses, especially near the resource-rich South China Sea. The Chinese government has become increasingly assertive about its claims to a series of disputed islands.

The Philippines and Vietnam have both accused China of disrupting their efforts at oil and gas exploration in the region.

Tensions between the United States and China intensified after Washington recently announced a new military strategy that will “re-balance” U.S. forces towards the Asia-Pacific region. U.S. officials say the move should not be viewed as a threat to Chinese power.

Earlier this month, U.S. Senator John McCain said during a visit to Manila that the United States does not want a confrontation with China. But he said Washington will continue to arm its allies in the Pacific region and will protect the principle of freedom of navigation.