“Our goal is not to counter China, our goal is not to contain China,” Obama said in Manila, just hours after the agreement was signed. “Our goal is to make sure that international rules and norms are respected and that includes in the area of maritime disputes.”
As Bloomberg.com reports, Philippine President Benigno Aquino is looking to bolster military ties with the United States as his country is currently involved in a territorial dispute with China over various islands and shoals in the South China Sea. President Obama said the U.S. was “very supportive” of international arbitration as a possible solution to the dispute, a viewpoint China does not share.
“This move is very much consistent with Obama’s commitment to enhance America’s strategic presence in Asia in the face of China’s growing power,” Hugh White, a professor of strategic studies at the Australian National University in Canberra, told Bloomberg.com. White added that the deal will confirm China’s notion “that the U.S. pivot into the Asia-Pacific is about trying to contain it.”
According to Bloomberg.com, the agreement, which was signed by Philippine Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg, stipulates that the United States will not permanently station soldiers, military bases, or WMDs in the country. Granting U.S. access to Philippine military facilities will come at the discretion of the Philippines.