U.S. EYES RETURN TO SOME SOUTHEAST ASIA MILITARY BASES
The Washington Post, June 23, 2012
As the Obama administration revamps its Asian strategy in response to a rising China, the U.S. military is eyeing a return to some familiar bases from its last conflict in the region — the Vietnam War.
In recent weeks, the Pentagon has intensified discussions with Thailand about creating a regional disaster-relief hub at an American-built airfield that housed B-52 bombers during the 1960s and 1970s. U.S. officials said they are also interested in more naval visits to Thai ports and joint surveillance flights to monitor trade routes and military movements.
In next-door Vietnam, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta this month became the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit the naval and air base at Cam Ranh Bay since the end of the war. Citing the “tremendous potential here,” Panetta enthused about the prospect of U.S. ships again becoming a common sight at the deep-water port.
The Pentagon is also seeking greater accommodations in the Philippines, including at the Subic Bay naval base and the former Clark Air Base, once the largest U.S. military installations in Asia as well as key repair and supply hubs during the Vietnam War.
The U.S. military either abandoned or was evicted from its Southeast Asian bases decades ago. Amid concerns about China’s growing military power and its claims to disputed territories, however, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines have cautiously put out the welcome mat for the Americans again.
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