The United States and the Philippines are set to strengthen security and economic ties amid growing tensions in the region over China’s aggressive sovereignty claims on vast parts of the disputed South China Sea.
Senior US and Philippine officials are expected to agree on an increased number of US military ships, aircraft and troops rotating through the Philippines as the military superpower “pivots” to Asia.
“What we are discussing right now is increasing the rotational presence of US forces,” Carlos Sorreta, the foreign ministry’s Assistant Secretary for American Affairs, told Reuters, adding that a five-year joint US-Philippine military exercise plan would be approved this week.
The agreement does not include reviving permanent US military bases but would see increased presence of troops for training exercises and disaster and relief operations.
US military presence has also surged in other parts of the region, such as Australia, which has seen more warships, planes and personnel as Washington augments its “pivot to Asia” policy amid China’s military expansion.
Chinese Communist Party chief Xi Jinping, during a visit to the People’s Liberation Army base in Guangzhou, urged his military to “prepare for a struggle” but did not name who that might be against, Reuters reports.
A US official claimed Washington was not “trying to step in and ‘solve'” the dispute.
“We really want the solution to be done by the claimants themselves and are hoping the Code of Conduct discussions move forward,” he said.