US won’t return bases in PH but welcomes offer of more troops
WASHINGTON — The United States on Friday welcomed the Philippines’ offer to allow more US troops on its territory, saying it would boost US power in Asia, and assured it was not seeking to re-establish bases in the former colony.
The Philippines said earlier Friday that it planned to hold more joint exercises and to let more US troops rotate through the Southeast Asian country, which is embroiled in increasingly tense territorial disputes with China.
“We would welcome discussions with the Philippines along those lines, but there’s no aspiration for bases in Southeast Asia,” said Admiral Robert Willard, head of the US Pacific Command.
Willard said that the United States — which stations more than 85,000 troops in Japan and South Korea — wanted more flexible ways to bring troops into Southeast Asia without the costs of permanent bases.
He also pointed to Australia’s offer to station US Marines — announced by President Barack Obama on a visit in November — and plans to forward-deploy littoral combat ships in Singapore.
“There is no desire nor view right now that the US is seeking basing options anywhere in the Asia-Pacific theater,” Willard told a news conference in Washington.
“Initiatives such as Australia offered or such as Singapore offered to allow us to rotate forces from locations that are closer and more adjacent to Southeast Asia afford Pacific Command the opportunity to more conveniently have its presence there and felt,” Willard said.
Senior officials from the Philippines and the United States held talks Thursday and Friday in Washington aimed at boosting security cooperation.
In a joint statement after the meeting, the two countries said that their six-decade alliance was important for “the peace, security and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific.”
“We committed to further enhance cooperation, including in security, defense, commerce, law enforcement, human rights and disaster relief. We agreed to deepen and broaden our maritime security cooperation,” the statement said.
The statement also recognized “positive developments” in the Philippines’ prosecution of abuses. The United States has pressed the Philippines to improve its human rights record, including in the insurgency-torn island of Mindanao.
Despite Manila’s desire for closer security cooperation, any large-scale presence of US troops would be politically sensitive in the Philippines which voted to close down US bases in 1992.
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