(MANILA, Phillipines) — President Obama said a new defense agreement with the Philippines will return American troops back to the island country, but only on a temporary and rotational basis.
Seeking to counter concerns about the expanded U.S. military footprint, part of a 10-year deal, Obama said bluntly, “the US is not trying to reclaim old bases or build new bases.”
In the early 1990s, the Philippines pushed the U.S. out of two longstanding footholds at Subic Bay and Clark Air Base. Now, American forces will be able to use those facilities again though not in perpetuity, officials have said.
“At the invitation of the Philippines, American service members will rotate through Filipino facilities so that we’re prepared for a range of challenges, including humanitarian crises and natural disasters like Super Typhoon Yolanda,” Obama said. “We’ll work together to build the Philippines defense capabilities and work with other nations to promote regional stability such as in the South China Sea.”
The president said the agreement was an “upgrade” of bilateral security ties, necessary to counter new threats and evolving humanitarian challenges.
But Obama was careful to say that the deployments are not aimed directly at China.
“Our goal is not to counter China, our goal is not to contain China,” he said. “Our goal is to make sure that international rules and norms are respected, and that includes in the area of maritime disputes. We do not have claims in this area, territorially. We’re an Asia-Pacific nation and our primary interest is the peaceful resolution of conflict, freedom of navigation that allows for continued progress and prosperity.”
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