11/22/2022, 13.43
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US Bases and South China Sea: Kamala Harris reiterates US support for Manila

The Philippines and China claim parts of the vast body of water. The US vice president visits Palawan Island, near the crisis area. Washington wants to boost its military presence in the island nation, proposing to build two outposts in the Philippine province nearest to Taiwan.

Manila (AsiaNews) – The United States backs the Philippines against intimidation and coercive acts in the South China Sea, US Vice President Kamala Harris said during a visit to Palawan, a Philippine island in the disputed stretch of sea, in a veiled swipe at China, which claims almost the entire vast body of water.

Philippine nationalists and activists want Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr to enforce a ruling by the International Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands, to protect the country’s borders from China's territorial claims.

In 2016, the Court ruled that China's claims to nearly 90 per cent of the South China Sea were "without legal basis."

Together with Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and partly Indonesia, the Philippines opposes China’s territorial demands. For the past few years, Beijing has continued to militarise some islands and coral reefs in the sea.

To contain Chinese expansionism, US warships regularly patrol the waters near these military outposts.

Harris's visit to Palawan comes at a time of tensions between the Philippines and China. Marcos Jr today said that his government sent a diplomatic note to China about an incident that occurred yesterday in the South China Sea.

According to the Philippine version, which Beijing denies, a Chinese coast guard used force to retrieve a piece of rocket that a Philippine vessel was towing.

The primary purpose of Harris’s trip to the Philippines, which began on Sunday, is to speed up plans to expand the US military presence in the country, as envisaged by an agreement signed by the two allies in 2014.

Washington has no permanent bases in Philippine territory since the early 1990s; thanks to an agreement in 1999, however, it can deploy troops for military exercises.

The agreement reached seven years ago allows the US to deploy forces in Philippine military facilities on a rotating basis, setting up stockpiling weapons at designated sites as long as they are not nuclear.

Manila has reported that the US wants to build five new military outposts in the country, two of them in the northern province of Cagayan.

The area is located on the Luzon Strait, which separates the Philippines from Taiwan, a strategic area in case of conflict between China and Taiwan.

It is also key to US strategy of preventing Chinese naval attacks against Taiwanese territory with an active “anti-Navy” defence strategy whereby US ground forces, scattered throughout the western Pacific, use precision missiles to keep Chinese naval forces at bay.

For its part, China, in a statement by its foreign ministry, said today that it is “not against normal interaction between the US and the Philippines, but their interaction should not be damaging to other countries’ interests.”

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White House to stop Beijing's "imperialist" policy in the South China Sea
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