Washington: The United States and the Philippines have agreed that the former's forces can use four more bases in the Southeast Asian country, apparently aimed at enhancing deterrence against China, according to NHK World.

On Thursday, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin separately met Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr and Defense Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr in Manila.

The two sides later announced the agreement to bring the total number of bases the US can use in the Philippines to nine. Details on the additional locations have yet to be announced, as per NHK World.

The increased US presence is apparently aimed at strengthening deterrence as China is ramping up military activities in the South China Sea and waters around the Taiwan Strait.

In the press conference, Austin said that both sides had discussed concrete actions to address destabilizing activities in the waters surrounding the Philippines.

He said the US-Philippine alliance makes both democracies more secure and helps uphold a free and open Indo-Pacific, reported NHK World.

President Marcos welcomed the agreement, saying it seems to him that the future of the Philippines and the Asia-Pacific will always have to involve the United States. He said the partnership can only be an advantage to both countries.

After the agreement, China reacted sharply. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning told a regular news conference on Thursday that defense and security cooperation between countries must contribute to regional peace and stability, and should not hurt or target the interests of a third party.

Mao said the United States has continued military buildup in the region for its own benefits, thereby raising regional tensions and harming peace and stability.

She said countries in the region should be vigilant against such moves and try not to be taken advantage of, according to NHK World.