‘2023 decisive year for US defense strategy in Asia’

Pia Lee-Brago - The Philippine Star
�2023 decisive year for US defense strategy in Asia�
The Filipino and American soldiers during the opening ceremony of PH-US joint army exercises dubbed as "Salaknib" 2023 at Fort Magsaysay in Palayan, Nueva Ecija on March 13, 2023.
STAR / KJ Rosales

MANILA, Philippines — The United States has described 2023 as a decisive year for implementing the US defense strategy in Asia, citing the expansion of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) with the Philippines to allow American access to four more Philippine facilities.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Saturday noted that more progress was made with each of his trips to the Indo-Pacific this year.

“In this decisive decade, 2023 will be remembered as a decisive year for implementing the US defense strategy in Asia. We’re making our force posture in the Indo-Pacific far more distributed, mobile and resilient,” Austin said in a speech at the Reagan National Defense Forum.

“We’re helping our friends build up their own capabilities to defend themselves, and we’re working with our allies and partners like never before,” he added.

Austin cited the announcement of the EDCA expansion during his visit in Manila in February.

The Philippines ramped up its military ties with the US this year and allowed greater US access to local military bases that angered China.

China condemned the new sites, saying they threaten the peace and stability of the Indo-Pacific and are aimed directly at Beijing.

The US National Defense Strategy describes China as America’s “most consequential strategic competitor and the pacing challenge for the Department of Defense.”

China is the only US rival with the intent – and, increasingly, the capacity – to reshape the international order, according to Austin.

“The (People’s Republic of China) hopes that the United States will stumble, and become isolated abroad and divided at home. But together, we can prevent that fate, and we have made extraordinary progress, along with our allies and partners, in meeting the China challenge – and forging a more secure Indo-Pacific,” he said.

The Pentagon said that the US is not seeking permanent bases in the Philippines with the new EDCA sites as it assured of activities that are responsive to the needs and priorities of local communities.

The US announced that it would allocate more than $100 million in investments at new and existing EDCA sites by the end of Fiscal Year 2023.

In expanding the EDCA to include four new sites in Palawan and Northern Luzon, the Philippines and the US will increase infrastructure investments at these sites to further support combined training, exercises and interoperability between the US and Philippine Armed Forces and the Philippines’ civilian-led disaster preparedness and response capacities.

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