“I’d imagine it’s still going to have an impact on the Philippines, but perhaps not a direct impact the way it would in terms of US interests vis-a-vis Taiwan.”
At these US-Philippine bases, the US can pre-deploy military equipment and rotational troops, conduct joint training and do construction on these bases, with a variety of benefits for both sides, he added.
However, Mr Powell said that he does not believe that the US is contemplating any unilateral or offensive military action. To pull off a successful cross-strait invasion, China would have to inevitably involve other countries, he noted.
“There are so many things that would happen in association with the Taiwan conflict. It’s really unpredictable, but it would certainly be much larger than simply a bilateral conflict between China and Taiwan,” he said.
BENEFITS TO PARTNERSHIP
On whether this development could prompt other countries with competing claims in the South China Sea to look to bolster their security cooperation with Washington, Mr Powell said that the Philippines being a very close security partner and treaty ally with the US is a “special case”.
“Every country is going to approach it differently, but I think it is important for those countries to see just how much it helps the Philippines in its bilateral relationship with China over the longer term,” he said.
Mr Powell said over the short term, ties with the Asian giant are likely to be “bumpy”, but over the long term, there are advantages for small countries that have issues with China to have leverage.
“The Philippines is going to be able to draw on a lot more strength, not just with the United States, but with other regional powers like Australia, like Japan, with which it is also looking into deepening its security ties,” he said.