WASHINGTON – The United States and the Philippines agreed Friday on use by the US military of five locations in the Southeast Asian country, including an air base on an island facing the South China Sea where Manila is involved in territorial disputes with China.
“Both sides expressed their firm opposition to the ongoing militarization of outposts in the South China Sea,” the two countries said in a joint statement released after talks between senior government officials in Washington.
The statement did not name a specific country in the context of militarization but the meeting took place as the United States steps up its criticism of China for its buildup of military equipment such as missile launchers and radars in disputed areas in the sea.
Washington and Manila “discussed their common view that the installation of new military assets on the outposts escalates tensions.”
The US and Philippine governments will hold detailed discussions on the US military’s use of the five bases on upcoming occasions such as a planned visit by US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter to the Philippines next month.
Antonio Bautista Air Base on Palawan Island near the contested Spratly Islands is among the five locations mentioned in the statement.
Washington and Manila also agreed they will urge Beijing to follow the ruling of a UN arbitral tribunal in The Hague when it hands down a decision over the legality of China’s territorial claims in the sea, according to the statement.