Philippines gives US war planners big boost with new base locations

China Philippines
In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, Visiting Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., left, and Chinese President Xi Jinping listen to the national anthems of their countries on stage during a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2023. Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is pushing for closer economic ties on a visit to China that seeks to sidestep territorial disputes in the South China Sea. (Yue Yuewei/Xinhua via AP) Yue Yuewei/AP

Philippines gives US war planners big boost with new base locations

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The Philippines has taken a very significant step toward improving the U.S. military’s means of waging war with China.

Identifying the location of four new bases that the U.S. military will gain access to, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. showed he values the historic U.S.-Filipino alliance. Sitting in coastal areas of northern and western Philippines, the bases offer U.S. forces strongholds from which to resupply, refuel and deploy for missions in the South and East China seas. Considering the rising threat of a Chinese attack on Taiwan, which many U.S. analysts believe will occur before the end of this decade, these bases represent a major strategic development.

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For one, and as shown by my annotated map below, the bases offer optimal positions from which the United States could launch anti-ship and land attack missiles against the People’s Liberation Army. That missile projection interest is a centerpiece of the U.S. Marine Corps’s evolving strategy for a possible conflict with China. Missiles would also be crucial in degrading or denying the movement of Chinese energy supplies through the South China Sea.

Geography matters. The new bases in the northern Philippines are just 350 miles from the Taiwan Strait, as compared to the U.S. military garrison at Guam, which is 1,770 miles from the strait. The Japanese island of Okinawa, which hosts a major U.S. Air Force presence, is 430 miles from the strait.

Considering that U.S. forces would likely be significantly outnumbered at the start of any conflict and that Chinese forces would have a far shorter comparative distance to travel to rearm, repair and refuel, these new bases are key. They will help more U.S. forces to enter the fight more quickly and to stay in the fight for longer periods. Indeed, it would not be a stretch to say that the bases provide a significant improvement to the U.S. likelihood of victory. Contrary to the misguided arrogance of some U.S. officials, victory is far from a certain outcome.

It’s unsurprising, then, that Beijing isn’t happy about the new state of affairs.

China had grown accustomed to the submissive deference of Marcos’s mentally unstable predecessor, Rodrigo Duterte. Duterte allowed China free rein to claim waters, such as those of the Spratly Islands chain, over which the Philippines has a far better claim than Beijing. Chinese forces have also harassed Filipino fishing vessels on numerous occasions. The Chinese Embassy in Manila is now warning that the bases “will drag the Philippines into the abyss of geopolitical strife and damage its economic development.”

The Biden administration deserves praise for this agreement, and Marcos deserves our nation’s gratitude. A very important alliance has rediscovered its feet — perhaps just in time.

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