The Philippines plays bigger role in "Indo-Pacific strategy"

China Military Online
Li Wei
2023-02-16 19:06:04

By Wu Minwen

US Defense Secretary Austin visited the Philippines on February 2, and the two sides released a joint statement that announced four new American military bases in addition to the existing five, stressing that “the Philippine-US alliance has stood the test of time and remains ironclad”. It seems Manila is playing a bigger role in America’s “Indo-Pacific strategy”.

Being an ASEAN member, the Philippines, unlike Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar, isn’t contiguous with the East Asian region. Such a geographical location makes it an important part of America’s “island chain” strategy and a link in its “Indo-Pacific strategy” that it eagerly wants to reinforce. The US military has kept expanding its presence in the country so that it will be able to respond rapidly when anything happens in the South China Sea or the Taiwan Strait.

Most American bases in the Philippines are on Luzon Island. This is not just because it is the largest island in the country and also home to the capital city, but more importantly because it is only a Bashi Channel away from China’s Taiwan province, with its northernmost end being 360km from the province at closest. In the meantime, Subic Bay on the west coast of Luzon Island faces the South China Sea and is the spot closest to the waters of China’s Huangyan Island. The Palawan Province right next to China’s Nansha Islands is also a key sitting area for American bases.

It has become increasingly clear that America’s “Indo-Pacific strategy” is centered on the Taiwan question, around which the US made all its military deployments in the Philippines.

While reinforcing its military deployments in the Philippines, the US is also urging the country to tighten military ties with Japan. On December 6, 2022, the Japan Air Self-defense Force (JASDF) dispatched two F-15 fighters to the Clark Air Base in the Philippines, the first time that Japanese warplanes appeared in the country after WWII thanks to the abetting and spurring of the US.

On February 6, 2023, Philippine President Ferdinand Romualdez Marcos Jr. paid an official visit to Japan, during which Tokyo promised a 150-billion-PHP investment (about US$2.7 billion) to Manila while Manila expressed its willingness to strengthen defense and security cooperation with Tokyo. On February 9, the defense ministries of the two countries signed a defense cooperation document on humanitarian assistance and disaster rescue and relief, laying the legal basis for their joint humanitarian aid exercises, a step that the US said is a major strategic regrouping.

Through their current military cooperation, American troops can “visit” the Philippines and set up and use military bases there through “rotation”, which in the long term will pose a potential threat to the host country’s territorial and sovereign integrity and national security.

Although Manila stressed that the military cooperation doesn’t target any specific third party, it’s evident that the US setting up nine military bases in the country is to contain China. This purpose and the actions US has made are independent of what Manila thinks or wishes.

Regarding Austin’s visit to the Philippines and the addition of four more military bases, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson responded that “the US side, out of selfish interests, holds on to the zero-sum mentality and keeps strengthening military deployment in the Asia-Pacific. This would escalate tensions and endanger peace and stability in the region. Regional countries need to remain vigilant and avoid being coerced or used by the US.”

(The author is from the School of Information Communication, Chinese People’s Liberation Army National University of Defense Technology)

Editor's note: Originally published on, this article is translated from Chinese into English and edited by the China Military Online. The information and opinions in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of


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