Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr emphasised on Thursday that the additional military bases in his country, recently granted to United States access, will not be utilised to target China or any other nation.
Marcos spoke at a think-tank event and responded with a simple “no” when questioned if the United States had requested his government contribute troops for combat operations in case of a conflict between Washington and Beijing concerning Taiwan.
These comments were made amidst heightened tensions between the United States and China, who find themselves embroiled in a geopolitical rivalry. China has upped the pressure on not just Taiwan, which it considers its own territory, but also the Philippines through what Marcos referred to as the “intimidation” of vessels in the South China Sea.
In February, Marcos granted the United States access to four additional bases, bringing the total number of American military facilities in the Philippines to nine under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement. This agreement has further complicated his delicate diplomatic balancing act.
Marcos, who agreed with US President Joe Biden earlier this week to enhance defence and economic cooperation, underlined that the extra bases were intended for natural disaster response, such as providing swift rescue and relief assistance.
During his appearance at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Marcos also revealed that the United States has “never brought up the possibility” of using the sites for offensive action against any nation.
In his first visit to Washington in over a decade by a Philippine leader, the president expressed his belief that Manila and Washington share mutual understanding and that US officials are aware of the Philippines’ concerns.
As the United States’ oldest security ally in the Indo-Pacific, the Philippines has long been entrenched in a territorial dispute with China in the South China Sea. The Biden administration regards the Philippines and the enhancement of the bilateral alliance as crucial to raising the deterrence level against China due to the country’s proximity to Taiwan and strategically important sea lanes.
However, since taking office almost a year ago, Marcos has consistently stated that the Philippines’ foreign policy will be independent, and Manila will not choose sides between the United States and China while striving to rebuild ties with Washington and its partners.
Bilateral relations were strained under his predecessor, Rodrigo Duterte, due to his pro-China and anti-US stance.
Marcos, who did not hold a joint press conference with Biden and had made few public comments on security issues during his visit to the US capital, emphasised at Thursday’s event that the Philippines’ policy is to be “a friend to all and an enemy to none,” reports Bangkok Post.
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