The U.S. and Philippine governments have worked out a new defense cooperation agreement that opens the way for the first large-scale return of American military forces to the island nation since their eviction at the end of the Cold War, according to the White House.
A day before Obama is scheduled to arrive in Manila, advisors to the president said Sunday that the two sides had worked out a 10-year deal that will allow U.S. troops, warships and aircraft joint use of Philippine military and training bases on a rotational basis.
Officials say the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement can take effect without specific approval by the Philippine Senate, which in 1991 rejected an extension of the nations' longstanding base agreement and forced Washington to close Clark Air Base and Subic Bay Naval Base, two of the Pentagon's largest overseas facilities.
More than two decades after that ouster, the new agreement marks an improvement in U.S. relations with the former American colony, as well as recognition of the growing regional tensions with China over resource-rich islands and shoals in the South China Sea.
"It shows how far we've come in building out a very mature partnership based on mutual interests and mutual respect," said Ben Rhodes, deputy national security advisor to Obama.
The agreement will be Obama's most visible achievement from his visits to Japan, Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines.
Over the past six days he has attended state dinners, visited cultural sites and held closed-door conversations with Asian leaders. But he will return to Washington on Tuesday without a clear breakthrough on the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade deal that he had hoped to show for his week abroad.