New US Military Bases in the Philippines and Japan

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On January 10, 2023, General James Bierman, Commandant of the United States (US) Marine Corps, stated, “We are building facilities in Japan, the Philippines and elsewhere that will expand our military theater of operations.”.[1] These remarks showed that the United States continues to build up its military capacity and capabilities in the Asia-Pacific in preparation for a possible conflict in Taiwan. More recently, the US and Japanese militaries have begun to integrate their command structures in the Pacific and have expanded the scope of combined operations. On February 2, 2023, US officials announced an agreement with Manila to establish four additional military bases in the Philippines.[2] With these new military bases expected to be established near Taiwan, the US is expected to be able to monitor China’s activities in the South China Sea and around Taiwan more easily.

These new bases planned to be established in the Philippines are part of the US strategy to contain China. The United States has no territory of its own in the Pacific, except for Guam. Therefore, in line with its strategy to contain China, the United States has to make agreements with states to deploy navy ships, soldiers and warplanes in the Western Pacific. Washington continues to strengthen its bases in Japan, South Korea and Australia, and has also accelerated its military cooperation with the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. To summarize briefly, in the Pacific, in addition to Diego Gargia Island, which it leased from the UK and converted into a military base, the United States has a base in Guam and military bases in Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Thailand and Australia, with which it has signed security-defense agreements.[3]

Currently, Washington has limited access to five bases in the Philippines under the security agreement. With the latest agreements, Washington will have access to four new bases in the country. The location of these new bases has not been disclosed. There is talk that they could be in Luzon, near Taiwan, possibly to counter China. These new bases are reportedly being established to enable a faster response to humanitarian and climate-related disasters and other common challenges in the Philippines.

The phrase “other challenges” may implicitly refer to the “Chinese threat”. Thus, during the Taiwan Crisis, the US will be able to deploy in many bases close to the island and intervene quickly. This is because the closest American base outside the Philippines is located on Japan’s Okinawa Island. It is believed that if China attacks Taiwan, it will take time for the US to come to its aid and China will seize the island in a “fait accompli”. To prevent this, Washington is both increasing the number of bases near Taiwan and developing joint crisis response capabilities with allies such as Japan and the Philippines.

The main purpose of military bases in the Pacific is to advance the US naval power projection and contain China. Both the US and Japan are revising their military bases in order to counter China’s claims in Taiwan. In this sense, the aim is to increase the number of naval bases in particular. The US, which only uses air bases in the Philippines, is still denied access to a naval base there. However, Washington is allegedly preparing to return to its naval base near Manila.[4] In return, the United States offered to provide military equipment assistance to the Philippines.[5] If it can dock its naval ships in the Philippines, the US will gain a significant advantage in its Taiwan strategy. In addition, Washington has begun deploying Marines in Guam after 70 years. This deployment will be partly paid for by Japan.[6]

Since November 2022, military cooperation between the US and Japan has accelerated, and it can be said that it has been extended to joint crisis intervention. The two countries are both developing military bases on the Japanese islands near Taiwan and trying to increase coordination in crisis intervention. This is because China’s growing claims in Taiwan pose a great danger to the Japanese islands as well.

In fact, China would refrain from targeting the Japanese islands even in the event of a crisis over Taiwan. However, the US is willing to use these nearby Japanese islands to help Taiwan in case of war. The islands in question are the Ryukpu Archipelago and the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, one of a series of islands claimed by China and Japan.

If China seizes Taiwan, it can then move to take over these islands of Japan. The Western argument is therefore this: If powers such as Russia and China, which violate the rules-based international order, are not punished for their actions, the door will be opened for the invasion of new territories in the near future. If China invades Taiwan and goes unpunished, it may be emboldened to invade Japan’s islands as well. This would make it impossible to maintain a rules-based international order and open the door to World War III.

Recognizing this danger, Japan wants the US to increase its military presence on these islands. But stronger US protection may not be enough to deter China. Therefore, in the future, the US and Japan may start talking about the establishment of collective defense organizations.

The US has accelerated its strategy of containment of China by increasing military cooperation with its allies in the Asia-Pacific. The islands closest to Taiwan belong to Japan and the Philippines. Therefore, these countries are Washington’s priority. These collaborations are also spreading to other allied states in the region. In December 2022, Australia agreed to increase the number of American troops in the country and to establish a new defense industrial base. Japan was also invited to be stationed at this American base in Australia.[7]

As a result, all these steps by the US are seen as a provocation by China. The two great powers are preparing for a showdown over Taiwan in the next five years. Washington will continue to take various measures to reduce the risks of this conflict and distribute the costs among allies.

[1] “US Bolsters Military Ties with Japan, Philippines over Possible Taiwan Conflict with China”, Taiwan News,, (Date of Accession: 03.02.2023).

[2] “US Secures Deal on Philippines Bases to Complete Arc Around China”, BBC,, (Date of Accession: 03.02.2023).

[3] “2 Maps That Show the US’ Strategy in Asia-Pacific”, Mauldin Economics,, (Date of Accession: 03.02.2023).

[4] “Güney Çin Denizi, Çin ile Kıyıdaş Ülkelerin Egemenlik İhtilaflarının Odağında”, Anadolu Ajansı,, (Date of Accession: 03.02.2023).

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] “ABD, Avustralya’daki Askeri Varlığını Artıracak”, NTV,,Z7_v9d5XQUWhTJJMS4nuFA, (Date of Accession: 03.02.2023).

Dr. Cenk TAMER
Dr. Cenk TAMER
Dr. Cenk Tamer graduated from Sakarya University, Department of International Relations in 2014. In the same year, he started his master's degree at Gazi University, Department of Middle Eastern and African Studies. In 2016, Tamer completed his master's degree with his thesis titled "Iran's Iraq Policy after 1990", started working as a Research Assistant at ANKASAM in 2017 and was accepted to Gazi University International Relations PhD Program in the same year. Tamer, whose areas of specialization are Iran, Sects, Sufism, Mahdism, Identity Politics and Asia-Pacific and who speaks English fluently, completed his PhD education at Gazi University in 2022 with his thesis titled "Identity Construction Process and Mahdism in the Islamic Republic of Iran within the Framework of Social Constructionism Theory and Securitization Approach". He is currently working as an Asia-Pacific Specialist at ANKASAM.