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MANILA : The US military could be granted access to more bases in the Philippines under a joint defence agreement between the two countries, the chief of the US Indo-Pacific command said on Thursday (Sep 14) after meeting the head of the Philippines armed forces.

China is likely to react negatively, having earlier this year accused Washington of “stoking the fire” when the Philippines increased the number of bases the US military could use to nine.

The four additional sites approved were located close to potential flashpoints for China, as three faced north towards Taiwan and one was near the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, where Manila and Beijing recently sparred over a disputed atoll.

US Admiral John Aquilino said he and the Philippines’ military chief, Lieutenant General Romeo Brawner, discussed further expanding the number of bases US forces could access under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) and had made “recommendations to our senior leaders”.

The closer US defence ties with the Philippines after a period of decline has caused concern in China.

The United States says it intends to bolster an already strong alliance and improve the defence capability of the Philippines.

Brawner said the purpose of EDCA was training exercises and humanitarian and disaster response, key planks of a decades-old alliance between the two countries, and was unrelated to regional security threats. US considering seeking greater base access in Philippines, top admiral says

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