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China Against US Troops in Philippines 03/23 06:13


   MANILA, Philippines (AP) -- Chinese diplomats expressed their strong 
opposition to an expanded U.S. military presence in the Philippines in 
closed-door talks with their Filipino counterparts in Manila on Thursday, a 
Filipino official said, underscoring the intense U.S.-China rivalry in the 

   The Philippine official, who attended the meeting, told The Associated Press 
about China's intense objections on condition of anonymity for lack of 
authority to discuss what transpired at the start of the two-day talks.

   Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Sun Weidong and Philippine Foreign 
Undersecretary Theresa Lazaro led the talks aimed at assessing overall 
relations between the two sides amid thorny issues, including Beijing's alarm 
over a Philippine decision to allow the U.S. military to expand its presence to 
a northern region facing the Taiwan Strait and escalating spats in the South 
China Sea.

   The discussions will focus on the long-seething territorial spats in the 
disputed waterway on Friday, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs in 

   The back-to-back meetings are the first under President Ferdinand Marcos 
Jr., who took office in June last year. He met Chinese President Xi Jinping in 
a state visit to Beijing in January where both agreed to expand ties, pursue 
talks on potential joint oil and gas explorations and manage territorial 
disputes amicably.

   Early last month, the Marcos administration announced it would allow 
rotating batches of American forces to indefinitely station in four more 
Philippine military camps. Those are in addition to five local bases earlier 
designated under a 2014 defense pact between the longtime treaty allies.

   Marcos said Wednesday the four new military sites would include areas in the 
northern Philippines. That location has infuriated Chinese officials because it 
would provide U.S. forces a staging ground close to southern China and Taiwan.

   The Americans would also have access to military areas on the western 
Philippine island province of Palawan, Marcos said, adding that the U.S. 
military presence under the 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement was 
aimed at boosting coastal defense.

   Palawan faces the South China Sea, a key passage for global trade that 
Beijing claims virtually in its entirety but a United Nations-backed 
arbitration tribunal ruled in 2016 that historical claim had no legal basis 
under the 1982 U.N. Convention on the Law of the Seas.

   China had dismissed the ruling, which Washington and other Western 
governments recognize, and continues to defy it.

   When asked to react to the Philippine decision, Chinese Foreign Ministry 
spokesperson Wang Wenbin told a news briefing in Beijing on Wednesday that 
defense cooperation between countries "needs to be conducive to regional peace 
and stability and not targeted at or harmful to the interests of any third 

   Wang warned countries in the region "to remain vigilant and avoid being 
coerced or used by the U.S." without naming the Philippines.

   A recent statement issued by the Chinese Embassy in Manila was more blunt 
and warned that the Manila government's security cooperation with Washington 
"will drag the Philippines into the abyss of geopolitical strife and damage its 
economic development at the end of the day."

   The territorial conflicts have persisted as a major irritant in relations 
early in the six-year term of Marcos, whose administration has filed at least 
77 of more than 200 diplomatic protests by the Philippines against China's 
increasingly assertive actions in the disputed waters since last year alone.

   That included a Feb. 6 incident when a Chinese coast guard ship aimed a 
military-grade laser that briefly blinded some crew members of a Philippine 
patrol vessel off a disputed shoal. Marcos summoned the Chinese ambassador to 
Manila to express concern over the incident, but Beijing said the Philippine 
vessel intruded into Chinese territorial waters and its coast guard used a 
harmless laser gadget to monitor the vessel's movement.

   The Biden administration has been strengthening an arc of military alliances 
in the Indo-Pacific to better counter China, including in any future 
confrontation over Taiwan. The U.S. moves dovetail with Philippine efforts to 
shore up its territorial defense amid its disputes with China in the South 
China Sea.

   The U.S. denied Chinese claims Thursday that its military had driven away an 
American guided-missile destroyer from operating around disputed islands in the 
South China Sea, with the U.S. Navy's 7th Fleet saying in a statement the USS 
Milius was conducting routine operations in the waterway and was not expelled.

   China's Southern Theatre Command had earlier said it had forced the USS 
Milius away from waters around the Paracel Islands, which China calls Xisha, 
after it "illegally entered China's Xisha territorial waters without approval 
from the Chinese government, undermining peace and stability in the South China 

   Two senior Filipino officials told the AP that the Philippine government 
would extend the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, which allows the 
temporary presence of U.S. forces and their defense equipment in the country. 
The Philippine Constitution prohibits the permanent basing of foreign troops in 
the country and their involvement in local combat.

   The agreement, signed in 2014, would initially be effective for 10 years and 
would remain in force automatically unless terminated by either side with a 
one-year advance written notice.

   The two officials spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because they 
lack authority to discuss the issue publicly.

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