– Hagel urges Philippines for extended access to military base (PressTV, Aug 31, 2013):
US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel on Friday asked the Philippines for more access to the country’s military bases for another twenty years as the two sides discuss a wider American military footprint in Asia.
The request for increased military presence is part of President Barack Obama‘s strategic “pivot” to Asia, a policy that calls for a stronger US military alliances and more troop presence in the Asia-Pacific region.
US and Philippine officials are negotiating a framework agreement that would increase the rotational presence of US troops and allow more of its ships and aircraft to pass through the Southeast Asian country.
Manila once hosted thousands of American troops until they were evicted in 1992.
Hagel sought to allay fears in the Philippines that Americans want to establish permanent bases in the country once again.
“The United States does not seek permanent bases in the Philippines that would represent a return to an outdated Cold War mentality,” Hagel told a news conference after talks with President Benigno Aquino.
Filipinos have protested outside the US Embassy in the capital Manila over the stationing of American troops.
“The Philippine government must reject the US plans to use Philippine facilities as de facto bases,” said Renato Reyes, Secretary General of the Bayan (Nation) movement.
“The US can and will use the Philippines as a staging ground for military intervention in other parts of the world, dragging us into conflicts not of our choosing and against our interest.”
The US has recently increased joint military exercises with the Philippines and other countries in the Asia-Pacific region.
China and the Philippines have had recurring standoffs over the disputed territories of the South China Sea. China claims nearly all of the sea, even waters close to the Philippines and other neighbors.
Analysts have warned that the Philippines risks losing part of its sovereignty by agreeing to expand the US military presence in the country, while Washington is sending a signal to the region that it supports the Philippines’ claims on the South China Sea disputes.
It may be “a strategic mistake by Manila to invite the US troops back to the country,” said Wu Shicun, director of the National Institute for South China Sea Studies.