Admiral Harry Harris, commander of the United States Pacific Command, arrived in the Philippines on Tuesday for a three-day visit that highlights broad changes to the Southeast Asian nation's military strategy. The Philippines has lately welcomed the militaries of the US and Japan in order to send a unified signal to China as it asserts its presence in the South ChinaSea. Though its relationships with the US and Japan have been historically complex, the Philippine government's current concerns over a newly aggressive China are encouraging it to move past that.
"You're seeing sort of these odd historic partnerships grow," Jerry Hendrix, the director of the Defense Strategies and Assessments Program at the Center for a New American Security, told VICE News. "All this means that the South China Sea isn't going to be settled in the way that China desires it to be any time soon."
China is the most active country that has declared dominion over islands in the South China Sea and reclaimed land by piling dredged sand on top of narrow reefs, but it's not the only one. Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, and the Philippines have all engaged in this, just to a far lesser degree. As of June, the Chinese had reclaimed more than 2,900 acres of land, according to the US Department of Defense. In comparison, the Philippines had built up only 14 acres.