US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter today announced the US will be escalating its “regular rotations” of troops and warplanes into the Philippines, though despite a growing number of troops in the country at any given time, he insisted this was not an increased “permanent footprint.”
300 Air Force commandos, along with a number of additional US combat aircraft are heading to the Philippines this go around, with an eye on escalating tensions with China over maritime claims in the South China Sea.
Despite officials making no secret that the deployments directly target China, Carter insists they aren’t meant to provoke any sort of conflict with China, and that his policy is to “tamp down” tensions with them.
That’s difficult to claim credibly, with the US repeatedly making incursions into the airspace and waters around manmade Chinese islands in the South China Sea. Though such overflights are perfectly legal under international law, Pentagon officials seem to regularly make it a point to present such moves as being done to spite the Chinese government.