U.S., Philippines hold military talks

Jan. 25, 2012 at 11:08 PM
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WASHINGTON, Jan. 25 (UPI) -- The United States and the Philippines are discussing ways to re-establish a U.S. military presence in the Philippines, officials said.

Such a step would be in line with the Obama administration's new policy pivot toward the Asia-Pacific region in face of China's growing military might, The Washington Post said Wednesday. The newspaper reported officials involved in preliminary negotiations said the two governments are favorably inclined toward such an arrangement -- which would come about two decades after the United States had to close its bases in the Philippines.

The two sides were scheduled to resume talks this week in Washington before moving to higher-level meetings in March, the Post said.

Any new deal with the Philippines would follow U.S. decisions to base thousands of Marines in northern Australia and to station Navy warships in Singapore. The Post report said options being discussed include operating Navy ships from the Philippines, deploying troops on a rotational basis or staging more frequent joint exercises.

China's forceful statements of claims of disputed territories such as the energy-rich South China Sea have raised concerns among countries in the region, encouraging them come closer to the United States.

"We're not the only one doing this, and for good reason. We all want to see a peaceful and stable region. Nobody wants to have to face China or confront China," a senior Philippine official involved in the talks told the Post.

The Obama administration wants to forge similar military partnerships with other nations in the region, including Vietnam and Thailand.

The United States has about 600 Special Operations troops in the Philippines to advise local forces fighting rebels sympathetic to al-Qaida, the report said. Philippine official say they want to strengthen maritime defenses across their more than 7,000 islands, especially near the South China Sea.

Pentagon officials told the Post the new strategy is to have a light footprint in the region instead of operating huge bases as in the past.

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