…If President Duterte’s more recent musings about reviewing or rescinding the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement are followed through the situation would change. The actions of America’s weakest and most dependent ally will pose a danger to vital U.S. and homeland security interests.
China’s recently activated nuclear-armed submarines are located at Hainan Island in the South China Sea. For these submarines’ missiles to pose a first or second strike threat to the continental United States, they must transit the South China Sea and enter the Western Pacific. Their most suitable route would be through the Luzon Strait between the Philippines and Taiwan. This year’s Malabar naval exercise with the United States, Japan and India took place around this strategic passage and focused on anti-submarine warfare.
The Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, signed by Duterte’s predecessor in 2014, provides U.S. forces greater access to Philippine bases including some strategically located to better address this new nuclear threat. If access to these bases are reduced or stopped there is no clear alternative.