In addition to gaining access to several of the Philippines' military bases, the US will resume joint patrols with the country. Indonesia warns of a proxy conflict. Because China is also very active in the disputed region.
The United States and the Philippines want to resume joint patrols in the South China Sea. US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and his Philippine counterpart Carlito Galvez agreed on this during Austin's visit to Manila, the US Department of Defense said. The decision should help to address "challenges" when it comes to security. The agreement came "at the last minute" of talks between Austin and Galvez, a senior Philippine official told AFP. Accordingly, the framework conditions for the joint operations would still have to be defined.
The Philippines and the US had previously agreed that the US military would have access to four more Philippine military bases. This increases the number of US locations based on the 2014 bilateral defense agreement EDCA to a total of nine. The agreement provides that US soldiers can use Philippine military bases and also store equipment and supplies there.
The US and the Philippines are long-time allies. In recent years, however, the relationship has suffered from the fact that President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.'s predecessor, Rodrigo Duterte, has given priority to relations with China over those with the United States. Joint patrols were also suspended under Duterte. Marcos, who has been in office since last summer, is in the process of revising this course.
Beijing's increasingly rigorous approach to the Taiwan question and the construction of Chinese military bases in the disputed South China Sea are current occasions for Washington and Manila to strengthen their partnership. China claims practically the entire South China Sea for itself. However, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam also lay claim to parts of the sea area, which is of enormous strategic and economic importance for the riparian states.
Indonesia's President Joko Widodo warned major foreign powers against carrying out their conflicts in Southeast Asia. ASEAN states "should not be proxies for any side," Widodo said ahead of an ASEAN meeting in Jakarta, according to his Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi. Indonesia is leading the alliance of Southeast Asian countries this year and will host the annual ASEAN summit, which traditionally also includes China and the US.