(CNN)The Philippines will provide the United States with expanded access to its military bases, the two countries said Thursday, providing US forces with a greater strategic footing on the southeastern edge of the South China Sea close to self-ruled Taiwan.
The newly announced deal will give the US access to four more locations under an Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) dating to 2014, allowing the US to rotate troops to a total of nine bases throughout the Philippines.
The US has stepped up efforts to expand its Indo-Pacific security options in recent months, amid mounting concerns over China's aggressive territorial posturing throughout the region.
Speaking during a visit to Manila Thursday, US Defense Secretary Llyod Austin said the US and the Philippines remained committed to strengthening their mutual capacities to resist armed attack.
"That's just part of our efforts to modernize our alliance. And these efforts are especially important as the People's Republic of China continues to advance its illegitimate claims in the West Philippine Sea," said Austin, referencing China's increased presence in waters close to the Philippines.