Subscribe to Here’s the Deal, our politics
newsletter for analysis you won’t find anywhere else.
Thank you. Please check your inbox to confirm.
Leave your feedback
The United States and the Philippines reached an agreement allowing American military forces to operate in four new locations across the nation. The move is aimed at confronting China and its focus on Taiwan, which is only a few hundred miles from one of the new locations where U.S forces will likely operate. Zachary Cooper of the American Enterprise Institute joined Geoff Bennett to discuss.
The U.S. and the Philippines reached an agreement today allowing American military forces to operate in four yet-to-be-confirmed new locations across the nation.
Today's move is aimed at confronting China and its focus on Taiwan, which is only a few hundred miles from one of the new locations where U.S. forces will likely operate. Another new location faces the South China Sea.
Last month, the U.S. and Japan announced an agreement allowing American forces to operate on a Japanese island that is even closer to Taiwan.
For analysis, Zack Cooper joins us. He is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, which is a Washington think tank. He also served in various national security posts during the George W. Bush administration.
It is great to have you here.
Zack Cooper, American Enterprise Institute:
And how will the U.S. use these military bases with the goal of confronting China's influence in the region?
I think the objective here is to provide new assets where the United States can place its forces, so they are not so focused on just a few bases in East Asia.
Right now, the United States really uses Okinawa and Guam as its main operating locations, and being able to diversify away from just a couple of locations makes the targeting challenge much more difficult for China.
What does the Philippines get out of allowing the U.S. to expand its military footprint there? That is a politically sensitive issue, as you know, because many Filipinos see the American influence as being a vestige of colonialism.
And, look, this is really about places, not bases. So we're not talking about going back to Clark and Subic bases, big U.S. facilities in the Philippines. These are Philippine bases where U.S. forces are going to be operating sometimes, probably on a rotational basis.
What the Philippines gets and why they're asking the United States to come back in is more of a presence in the South China Sea, for example, where the Chinese are really pushing the Philippines quite hard, and some assistance with other things like humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, which is a big issue in the Pacific Rim.
What is the nature of the relationship right now between China and the Philippines? Because this agreement was initially signed, as I understand it, back in 2014. But progress stalled because the former president, Duterte, decided to pivot toward Beijing and away from the U.S.
Well, this is in part a win for the United States, but it's in part, I think, a loss for China.
This was a missed opportunity for the Chinese government, I think, to really drive a wedge between the United States and the Philippines over the last six years. But what we have seen is, Rodrigo Duterte is gone. His successor, Marcos, has actually welcomed the United States back in, which has been a surprise for some of us.
And I think the reason is just that China has pushed too hard. It's pushed the Philippines in the South China Sea, what they call the West Philippine Sea. It's pushed to the Philippines and others economically. And at the end of the day, a lot of these countries are saying, we just have to rely on the United States. There's no other option.
There is a debate right now about the merits of having Marines, Army forces, American troops on these islands, where they are effectively isolated. It could be hard to supply them. It could be hard to medically evacuate them if that's what's necessary.
Explain that debate for us right now.
So, the debate is really between what we might call stand-in forces and these outside forces.
And the idea has for a long time been that the outside forces, say, aircraft carriers operating from far away or long-range aircraft, might be able to strike targets in the theater, right, maybe in the Taiwan Strait, if that were necessary.
But I think the argument the Marine Corps and the Army, to some extent, are making is that it's really important to still be there, right? How can you reassure your friends if you're not there with them in the fight? And so to have some layer of forces that is sort of stand-in force is incredibly important.
And what they can do is, they can sense the region around them. And we can put new capabilities, things like anti-ship cruise missiles, on those facilities if the Philippines and others let us, that can hold Chinese targets at risk if we do enter into a conflict.
So, what then are the next steps?
Well, this is a big question.
The agreement in 2014, the next step was to actually execute and build out some of those facilities and have U.S. forces use them. And that never happened. So I think the thing many of us will be looking for is whether U.S. forces are actually deployed on rotational deployments to these facilities. There's been a commitment of something like $82 million — that's — of U.S. money that's supposed to go into these facilities soon.
And so we will be looking for those signs that they're actually executing. But, as Lloyd Austin said just yesterday, this is a very big deal. And I think he's right.
Zack Cooper, thanks so much for your insights. Good to see you.
Watch the Full Episode
Geoff Bennett serves as co-anchor of PBS NewsHour. He also serves as an NBC News and MSNBC political contributor.
As the deputy senior producer for foreign affairs and defense at the PBS NewsHour, Dan plays a key role in helping oversee and produce the program’s foreign affairs and defense stories. His pieces have broken new ground on an array of military issues, exposing debates simmering outside the public eye.
Support Provided By: