The Chinese government has sent a warning to the Philippines that allowing the United States armed forces to access more military bases could “greatly prejudice Philippine national interests and jeopardize regional tranquility and steadiness,” being one of the first open indications of Chinese displeasure with the quickening security ties between the two nations.

In February, the Philippine government consented to US military access to four extra bases under the 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA). The EDCA allows US military units to rotate through a certain number of bases initially chosen by Manila.

On Sunday, the Chinese Embassy in Manila declared that offering the United States more access to Philippine armed forces bases would draw the Philippines into a “geopolitical struggle.” In their official statement, China notes: 

“We noted that intense debates have been going on recently in the Philippines about the four additional military sites to which the US forces would have access under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA). The governors of Cagayan and Isabela are not the only ones who publicly expressed reservation to having their provinces used as EDCA sites. Former President Duterte also questioned the merits of having additional EDCA bases open to the US in an interview with SMNI TV. The Philippine Senate Committee on Foreign Relations held a hearing, in which quite some Senators, local offcials and legal experts raised concerns about new EDCA sites. A number of think-tanks and scholars as well as NGOs published articles, held forums or even took to the street to voice their opposition. People are asking the Philippine government to disclose the locations of the new EDCA sites. Those visionary people all asked the soul-searching questions: If the new sites are located in Cagayan and Isabela, which are close to Taiwan, does the US really intend to help the Philippines in disaster relief with these EDCA sites? And is it really in the national interest of the Philippines to get dragged by the US to interfere in the Taiwan question?”

In reaction to MaryKay Carlson, the US Ambassador to the Philippines, who stated on a local TV program the preceding day that other access was designed to enable US forces to swiftly deal with humanitarian concerns in the area, the Chinese issued a statement. According to an interview with Carlson, the EDCA sites provide provincial and local governments with the capacity to both develop their economic standing and enhance their security.