U.S. President Barack Obama concluded his weeklong visit to Asia with the signing of a landmark defense agreement with the Philippines that will allow U.S. troops access to Philippine bases.
The sound of a military band and a ground-shaking 21-cannon salute greeted Obama's upon his arrival at Manila's Malacanang Palace.
The president is ending his Asia visit on a high note. Eight months of negotiations with the Philippine government culminated with the signing Monday of a deal that will allow for the largest rotation of U.S. troops into the country since U.S. bases here closed more than two decades ago.
President Barack Obama speaks to military troops at Fort Bonifacio, saying a new military pact signed with the Philippines on Monday, April 27 granting a larger presence for U.S. forces would bolster the region's maritime security, Manila, April 29, 2014.
President Barack Obama states during a joint news conference with President Benigno Aquino III, that a 10-year agreement signed Monday, April 27, will give the U.S. military greater access to Philippine bases, helping to promote peace and stability in the region, Malacanang Palace, Manila, April 28, 2014.
Police use a water cannon on "Bayan Muna" (My Country First) activists who tried to march to the U.S. embassy protesting President Barack Obama's visit, Manila April 29, 2014.
The tail section of Air Force One is pictured on the tarmac at Elmendorf Air Force Base outside Anchorage, Alaska, as President Barack Obama stayed onboard during a refuel stop on his return to the United States from Asia, April 29, 2014.
U.S. President Barack Obama waves to the media upon arrival at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila, Philippines, April 28, 2014.
U.S. President Barack Obama, center, stands to speak as he attends a state dinner with Philippine President Benigno Aquino III at Malacanang Palace in Manila, Philippines, April 28, 2014.
Philippine activists pull barbed wire fence as they try to go near the Malacanang Palace during a rally to oppose the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement between the Philippines and U.S., Manila, Philippines, April 28, 2014.
An activist holds a protest sign near the Malacanang Palace in Manila, Philippines, April 28, 2014.
President Barack Obama is welcomed by South Korean President Park Geun-hye at the Blue House in Seoul, April 25, 2014.
President Barack Obama and Japan's Empress Michiko attend a welcome ceremony at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, April 24, 2014.
President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe shake hands at the conclusion of their joint news conference at the Akasaka State Guest House in Tokyo, April 24, 2014.
President Barack Obama and ASIMO, an acronym for Advanced Step in Innovative MObility, bow to each other during a youth science event at the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation in Tokyo, April 24, 2014.
The deal, known as the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, will enable U.S. forces to train and conduct exercises with the Philippine military.
At a joint news conference with Philippine President Benigno Aquino, Obama said the agreement is not about returning U.S. troops permanently, nor is it about dominating this country that it once ruled.
“I want to be very clear. The United States is not trying to reclaim old bases or build new bases," he noted. "At the invitation of the Philippines, American service members will rotate through Filipino facilities.”
The president also said a new security agreement signed with the Philippines is not meant to "counter" or "control" China. He said the United States has a constructive relationship with China and "our goal is to make sure international rules and norms are respected, and that includes in the area of international disputes."
China and the Philippines have competing maritime and territorial claims in the South China Sea.
China's state-run Xinhua news agency called the move "particularly disturbing as it may embolden Manila in dealing with Beijing." Xinhua said by striking a defense deal with the United States, the Aquino administration intends to "confront China with U.S. backing."
The subject of U.S. troops on Philippine soil is a touchy one for many here, and the agreement sparked violent protests by left-wing activists ahead of the American president's arrival.
U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg told an audience at the signing ceremony the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement will "promote peace and security in the region."
Goldberg emphasized no U.S. bases would be built in the Philippines.
"A commitment to democratic governance and international law, the mutuality of benefits for both nations as we develop our individual and collective defense capacities, respect for Philippine sovereignty over all locations covered under the agreement, and the understanding that the United States does not intend to establish a permanent military presence in the Philippines,'' he said.
Details of agreement
U.S. officials say the framework agreement is for 10 years, and will allow the U.S. to rotate - but not base - troops, air, and naval resources at Philippine military facilities. The troops will train and conduct exercises with Philippine forces on humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, maritime security, and other missions.
The Philippine government signed the agreement in the face of China's increasingly assertive behavior in the South China Sea, where the Chinese and the Philippines have competing maritime and territorial claims.
The Philippines is shifting its defense strategy to turn its focus from internal security missions to external missions. The U.S. says the new defense deal will allow American forces to help the Philippines build up its deterrence capabilities and that the agreement is not about containing China, but about equipping its Philippine allies to face a range of threats.
The deal does not establish how many troops can rotate into the country at any given time.
The Philippines is the final stop for Obama, who also visited Japan, South Korea, and Malaysia on a trip aimed primarily at reassuring allies that the United States stands by its commitments to help defend them.