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Wary of China, Philippines looks to U.S.

Washington Post

WASHINGTON - Two decades after evicting U.S. forces from their biggest base in the Pacific, the Philippines is in talks with the Obama administration about expanding the American military presence in the island nation, the latest in a series of strategic moves aimed at China.

Although negotiations are in the early stages, officials from both governments said they are favorably inclined toward a deal. They are scheduled to intensify their discussions today and Friday in Washington prior to higher-level meetings in March.

If an arrangement is reached, it would follow other recent agreements to base thousands of U.S. Marines in northern Australia and station Navy warships in Singapore.

Among the options under consideration are operating Navy ships from the Philippines, deploying troops on a rotational basis and staging more frequent joint exercises. Under each of the scenarios, U.S. forces would effectively serve as guests at existing foreign bases.

The sudden rush by many in the Pacific region to embrace Washington is a direct reaction to China's rise as a military power and its assertiveness in staking claims to disputed territories, such as the energy-rich South China Sea.

The strategic talks with the Philippines are in addition to feelers the Obama administration has put out to other Southeast Asian countries, such as Vietnam and Thailand, about the potential for bolstering military partnerships.

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