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US to widen military presence in Philippines amid China fear

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By JIM GOMEZ

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The United States and the Philippines announced an expansion of America’s military presence in the Southeast Asian country on Thursday, with U.S. forces granted access to four more military camps, effectively giving Washington new ground to ramp up deterrence against China.

The agreement between the longtime allies was made public during the visit of U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, who has led efforts to strengthen America’s security alliances in Asia in the face of China’s increasing assertiveness toward Taiwan and territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

The allies also said that “substantial” progress has been made in projects at five Philippine military bases, where U.S. military personnel were earlier granted access by Filipino officials. Construction of American facilities at those locations has been underway for years but has been hampered by unspecified local issues.

Austin thanked President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., whom he briefly met in Manila, for allowing the U.S. military to broaden its presence in the Philippines, Washington’s oldest treaty ally in Asia.

“I have always said that it seems to me that the future of the Philippines and for that matter the Asia-Pacific will always have to involve the United States simply because those partnerships are so strong,” Marcos told Austin.

American leaders have long sought to reorient U.S. foreign policy to better reflect the rise of China as a significant military and economic competitor.

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