US parking up in Philippine bases as war moves closer

Taiwan’s Foreign Minister warns what could happen if China is not stopped

The US is set to be given admission to special bases run by the Philippines, in what has been described as a “useful” step forward for Washington were it to enter a conflict with China.

Ferdinand Marcos Jr, the Philippines president, outlined his country’s stance, a move that will no doubt infuriate officials inside Beijing.

Speaking after a four-day visit in Washington Mr Marcos Jr told his American counterpart Joe Biden that he would update the defence alliance of Manilla and Washington – a pact eight decades old.

On the question of whether the US could use their bases if China attacked Taiwan, a concern growing fiercer by the day, the Filippino president did not directly respond.

He said: “There’s an additional aspect to it and that is… tensions across the Taiwan Straits seem to be continuing to increase. Then the safety of our Filipino nationals in Taiwan becomes of primordial importance.”

The Philippines leader added in relation to an invasion of Taiwan: “And so these Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement sites will also prove to be useful for us should that terrible occurrence come about.”

In February, the US and the Philippines agreed a pact to give authorisation for an extra four Manilla-ran bases to be used by Washington, allowing for a closer relationship between the nations.

China claimed that the pact was “stoking the fire” of local tension.

For Mr Marcos Jr, though the US “has not proposed any kind of action for the Philippines in terms of taking part in the defense of Taiwan”.

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He added: “It’s of a defensive nature and maybe a civil-defense nature, when I talk about the disasters and the evacuation of our Filipino nationals.”

The trip was designed by Mr Marcos Jr as an exercise in understanding Mr Biden’s desire to protect his country as tensions in the east continue to bubble.

As well as the war with Russia and Ukraine, anguish over the South China Sea, and between Taiwan and Beijing, and the threat of North Korea, have been added to the cauldron of unease.

Insiders from the US say the country will do all it can to maintain decent relations with Manilla, as it eyes the country as a location to store weapons were it to embark on a conflict with China over Taiwan.

Lloyd Austin, the US Defence Secretary, said that it was “too early” to begin deliberations over the whether it would station anything at their ally’s bases.

It comes as Mr Biden was under fire for not attending King Charles III’s Coronation this weekend, with his predecessor Donald Trump lashing out at the US President.

Speaking this week, Mr Trump said he was “surprised when I heard he wasn’t coming”, adding: “I think it’s very disrespectful for him not to be there.”

Mr Biden will remain in the US while festivities in Britain are played out, with his wife Jill Biden deputising for him.

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