MANILA, Philippines — Nations around the South China Sea should “think carefully” about the increased presence of the United States military in the region following the expansion of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement with the Philippines, Beijing said.
The addition of four military bases that the US will get access to comes at a time of growing concern over China’s conduct in the South China Sea, including the parts claimed by the Philippines, and its growing assertiveness over self-governed Taiwan.
“Will increased US military deployment in one’s country or the region truly help protect sovereignty and security as well as regional peace and stability or rather cause grave irreparable consequences?” China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said in a briefing on Thursday.
“Regional countries need to think carefully about this,” she added.
Mao made the remark when asked to comment on Defense Senior Undersecretary Carlito Galvez Jr.’s statement that the addition of four EDCA sites will boost Manila’s capabilities to protect national interest, contribute to collective defense in the region, and protect busy sea lanes of commerce.
Mao said that some Filipinos are concerned about the Philippines being drawn into “the whirlpool of a potential conflict in the Taiwan Strait.” Activist groups like Bagong Alyansang Makabayan have been warning that additional US presence in the Philippines actually puts the country in more danger.
“We hope regional countries could see clearly who is fueling tensions across the Taiwan Strait for what purpose and will not pull someone else’s chestnuts out of fire at their own expense,” Mao said.
Signed in 2014, EDCA allows US troops to rotate through the bases, and store defense equipment and supplies.
The additional sites are the Camilo Osias Navy Base and Lal-lo Airport in Cagayan province, Camp Melchor Dela Cruz in Isabela, and the island of Balabac off Palawan.
The first five EDCA sites are located in Cebu, Cagayan de Oro, Nueva Ecija, Palawan, and Pampanga.
The Department of Foreign Affairs said EDCA will lead to the construction of facilities and infrastructure upgrades that contribute to the enhancement of the Philippine military.
The US Department of Defense also said the expansion of the agreement will “spur economic growth and job opportunities” in host provinces. — Gaea Katreena Cabico with reports from Agence France-Presse
Source : Philstar