U.S. and Philippine officials recently reached agreement to allow U.S. forces to have access to five Philippine military bases -- some on the disputed South China Sea. Access to the bases -- which include four air bases and one army outpost -- will mark the first time American forces will be able to operate in the country in a quarter century. Significantly, among the bases is Antonio Bautista Air Base on the western island of Palawan, which sits by the South China Sea, thereby giving American aircraft quick access to the contested waterway and improving their ability to fly surveillance missions.
The U.S. now has an official green light for new military bases in the Philippines but China is less than thrilled about the development. Washington and Manila officially inked a deal for American access to five bases last week, marking a return for American forces which left the country in the early 1990s. U.S. officials have emphasized that they don't view the basing agreement in the Philippines as offensive or aimed at China, but Beijing doesn't necessarily see it that way. China's foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying, in a veiled dig at the U.S. Navy's stated concerns about China's "militarization" of the South China Sea, wondered aloud, "can [the U.S.] explain whether its own increased military deployment in the region is equivalent to militarization?"