File image from a video of the Philippine Coast Guard patrolling the West Philippine Sea on April 14, 2021.

The increased U.S. military presence in the Philippines under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) did not sit well with China, particularly given the simmering tensions among other claimant countries in the disputed West Philippine Sea.

In a statement, the Chinese Embassy in Manila accused the U.S. of fueling the fire in this part of the globe.

“The United States, out of its self interests and zero-sum game mentality, continues to step up military posture in this region. Its actions escalate regional tension and undermine regional peace and stability,” the statement said.

The presence of U.S. troops in four Philippine bases, including the Antonio Bautista Air Base (ABAB) in Puerto Princesa, near the disputed waters, is now permitted under the EDCA expansion.

EDCA also allows U.S. troops to store equipment and supplies in these bases.

The Chinese Embassy also commented on the visit of U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to the Philippines, accusing him of carrying out a smear campaign against China.

“During his visit, U.S. Secretary of Defense smeared China on the issue of the South China Sea to advance the anti-China political agenda of the U.S.,” the Chinese Embassy claimed.

China also appealed to Filipinos to remain vigilant and resist falling prey to the U.S.’ alleged self-serving agenda.

“Such moves contradict the common aspiration of regional countries to seek peace, cooperation and development, and run counter to the common aspiration of the Filipino people to pursue sound economic recovery and a better life in cooperation with China. It is hoped that the Philippine side stays vigilant and resists from being taken advantage of and dragged into troubled waters,” China expressed.

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