By Riyaz ul Khaliq
ISTANBUL (AA) – China warned of "aggravating tensions" in the Asia-Pacific region on Thursday, following the Philippines' approval of granting US military access to four additional bases in the Southeast Asian nation.
“Defense cooperation should not target or damage the interests of a third party,” said Mao Ning, spokeswoman for China’s Foreign Ministry.
“Out of selfish and zero-sum game mentality, the US pushed more military presence in Asia, aggravating tensions,” Mao said, responding to the US’ wider access to military bases in the Philippines, the Chinese daily Global Times reported.
Earlier on Thursday, the Philippines agreed to allow the US military access to four more bases in the country, with the US Defense Department saying the new locations “will allow more rapid support for humanitarian and climate-related disasters in the Philippines, and respond to other shared challenges.”
The announcement came during a visit by US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to the archipelago nation, Washington's oldest military ally in Asia.
The expansion of military bases was agreed upon under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), signed in 2014.
The EDCA, a military deal between Manila and Washington signed during former Filipino President Corazon Aquino’s government, allows for the increased rotational presence of US troops, planes, and ships in Philippine military bases, as well as the construction of facilities to store fuel and equipment.
In 2016, Washington had got access to five Filipino military bases.
In response to a meeting between Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen and retired US Admiral Philip Davidson, Mao said: “Taiwan Straits tensions stem from Taiwan authorities' repeated moves to seek ‘independence’ relying on the US.”
“The US should earnestly implement the commitment of not supporting ‘Taiwan independence’,” the spokeswoman said.
Tsai met with Davidson in Taipei on Thursday, and the Taiwanese leader described the meeting as "productive."
“Taiwan will continue to work as a force for good, cooperating with like-minded partners to uphold peace and security throughout the region,” she wrote on Twitter.
China considers Taiwan as a "breakaway province" while Taipei has insisted on its independence since 1949, enjoying full diplomatic relations with at least 14 nations.