US inks military pact with Philippines ahead of Obama’s visit

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The United States and the Philippines have agreed on an accord that will allow increased presence of US troops in the Philippines, US officials said.

The new 10-year military pact will give the American military greater access to selected military camps across the South East Asian nation and allow it to preposition fighter jets and ships.

Further details of the size, duration and location of the increased US presence are yet to be worked out, according to USA Today, citing White House officials.

The agreement came in advance of President Barack Obama’s visit to Manila on Monday, the last stop on his four-country Asian tour. Obama has already visited Japan, South Korea and Malaysia.

The Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, which has been under negotiation for eight months, is seen as an effort by Washington to counter China which has maritime disputes with its neighbors in South China Sea, including with the Philippines.

Obama has been careful not to antagonize China on his Asia trip.

“We’re not interested in containing China,” he said in South Korea on Friday. “We’re interested in China’s peaceful rise and it being a responsible and powerful proponent of the rule of law and an international system.”

Experts say the US is likely to underplay the China-related aspects of the new defense agreement.

Sheena Chestnut Greitens, a senior fellow with the Center for East Asia Policy Studies at the Brookings Institution, said: “My guess is that although a lot of attention will be on the Philippines’ territorial dispute with China, an effort will be made to frame this security cooperation in terms of other interests also.”

The interests include counterterrorism operations in the Philippines’ restive South and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

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