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CUSEF Express - February 3, 2023

2023-02-03
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U.S. to broaden military access to Philippines

  • The U.S. and the Philippines struck a deal on Wednesday to enable U.S.’s access to four more military bases in the Philippines on top of the five locations they agreed on in 2016. The two countries became military allies in 1951 by signing the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT), making the Philippines the U.S.’s oldest ally in Asia.

  • The military base sharing programs were under the 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), which, together with the 1998 Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), is an enhancement of the MDT. The U.S. has two military allies in Southeast Asia — the Philippines and Thailand. Unlike the Philippines, Thailand, which only signed a multilateral defense treaty with the U.S. in 1954, does not have a bilateral defense agreement with Washington.

  • As the U.S. State Department summarized, EDCA “authorizes U.S. forces access to agreed locations in the Philippines on a rotational basis, for security cooperation exercises, joint and combined military training activities, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief activities.”

  • U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Philippine Secretary of National Defense Carlito Galvez agreed on the expansion of EDCA during their meeting in Manila. At a joint news conference after the meeting, Austin said these efforts “are especially important as the People's Republic of China continues to advance its illegitimate claims in the West Philippine Sea," mentioning the South China Sea in a way Manila prefers.

U.S. reopens embassy in Solomon Islands

  • The U.S. opened an embassy in the Solomon Islands on Thursday, 30 years after Washington shut its embassy in Honiara due to a budget cut. The U.S. and the Solomon Islands established their diplomatic relations in October 1978, three months after the Pacific island country gain its independence from the UK. A U.S. embassy was established in the state only in 1988, five years before it closed down. During the absence of an embassy in the country, U.S. ambassadors to the Solomon Islands stationed in Papua New Guinea.

  • The U.S. promised to reopen the embassy in July last year as Beijing shored up its ties with the Solomon Islands. The island country built its diplomatic relations with China as late as 2019 after recognizing Taiwan as a part of China. Taipei renounced its ties with Honiara as a result. Since then, Washington has been increasingly worried about China gaining a stronger foothold in the Pacific region, which some call the “backyard” of the U.S. and its Australian allies. Such concern grew even more rapidly after Beijing reached a security framework agreement with Honiara last year.

EU, Ukraine hold summit

  • EU delegates have arrived in Kyiv for a summit to discuss Ukraine’s accession to the EU, the Ukraine war, and other issues like energy and food security. The Council of the European Union adopted its seventh package of military aid worth €500 million and another €45 million in training support for Ukraine a day before the summit.

Commentaries of the day

U.S.-Philippines relations: Gregory Poling with the CSIS made some guesses about the four new locations of U.S. military access, which are yet to be confirmed. He also foresaw a more closely interacted U.S. alliance in the Asia-Pacific region.

Lessons from the Ukraine war: Rand’s Raphael Cohen and Gian Gentile reflected on the Ukraine war and found that the U.S.’s focus on flash fights is insufficient for 21st-century warfare preparation.

Post-COVID economy: Economist Zhang Jun from Fudan University was cautious about expecting a “revenge spending” spree in China, saying many of those “excess savings” during the three years of COVID restrictions are out of precaution. He warns that such a situation will continue unless the country carries out an “overhaul of its fiscal policy and tax system.”

From the readers

  • Here is today’s question: How do you expect the direction of China-Philippines relations?

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