Kamala Harris’ visit to the Philippines sends China a message of US intent

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A Philippine archipelago known for tropical vacations will become the focus of political attention this week when Vice President Kamala Harris becomes the highest-ranking US official to visit its main island.

Palawan is home to dive resorts as well as a Philippine military base that Harris will visit on Tuesday, according to a senior administration official, putting her on the edge of the South China Sea, where China has been building military bases – some on islands claimed by the Philippines – in one of the most outward signs of its ambitions in the Pacific.

Harris met with Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. Monday, with the partners expected to discuss 21 new projects funded by the United States, including more defense sites around the Philippines in locations yet to be revealed – an indication to Beijing that Washington is forging tighter ties with Manila.

The projects are part of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the two countries, which allows US troops to use agreed locations in the Philippines for security exercises and joint military training, the White House said in a statement.

But US-Philippine defense ties run even deeper.

The country used to be home to two of the US military’s largest overseas installations, Clark Air Base and Subic Bay Naval Base, which were transferred to Philippine control in the 1990s. A mutual defense treaty signed in 1951 remains in force, stipulating that both sides would help defend each other if either were attacked by a third party.


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