Hagel focuses US military presence in Philippines visit
MANILA (AFP) - Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel will discuss expanding the United States (US) military's presence in the Philippines in a visit to the country on Friday as Manila looks to defend its territorial claims in disputed waters.
Mr Hagel flew into Manila on Thursday amid fresh strains between the Philippines and China over disputes in the South China Sea, with President Benigno Aquino calling off a visit to Beijing next week at China's request.
The Philippines has accused Beijing of an arms buildup and coercive moves in the strategic South China Sea, which is believed to hold unexploited oil and gas deposits.
China, after asking President Aquino to call off his visit, cited "difficulties" in relations with the Philippines.