A deal has been struck between Manila and Washington to deploy conventional forces to the Philippines for the first time in decades.
The “Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement” appears to be in response to China’s massive land reclamation of seven reefs and rocks on the Spratly Island chain. The U.S. and its allies are extremely concerned about the militarization of these “tiny spits of land” and China’s “lack of transparency.”
The deal, which was reached on Friday, will allow the Pentagon to use parts of five Philippine military installations– according to the Washington Post. They include Antonio Bautista Air Base, which is about a few dozen miles east of Spratly.
Satellite photos show airstrips being built on these Chinese man-made islands with probable radar towers, lighthouses and other features. China says the facilities being built are for civilian use and there’s only ‘limited’ defensive facilities being constructed.
Admiral Harry Harris, Commander of the US Pacific Command, says China is clearly militarizing the South China Sea and “you’d have to believe in a flat earth to think otherwise.”
U.S. military experts say control of these waterways would be vital in any conflict – much of Asia’s oil passes through the South China Sea. They also say that China is at the forefront of the development of A2/AD surface-to-air missile technology -which poses a threat to our legacy weapons, like aircraft carriers.
The uncertainty surrounding all this activity in the South China Sea, say experts, creates a number of problems for the U.S.– which has treaty partners in the region that we’re required to defend in the event of an attack.
State Department spokesman John Kirby says, “It’s about meeting our security commitments in a serious alliance with the Philippines. That’s what this is about.” He adds there’s nothing “offensive or provocative” about the deployment of troops to the region.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying had this to say about the issue: “The U.S. has talked about militarization in the South China Sea. But can it explain whether its own increased military deployment in the region is equivalent to militarization?”
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