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practice landings on Palawan Island, an area that abuts China’s nine dash line.The U.S. Army could demonstrate its abilities to rapidly deploy from U.S.bases to establish missile defense sites and expeditionary logistics nodes on remote Philippine islands, while the U.S. Air Force could expand air defense exercises and base dispersal options with the Philippine air force. They could also continue improving base infrastructure that both countriescould useduringa conflict, including hardened aircraft shelters, upgraded dispersal airfields, protected munitions storage, and prepared air and missile defense locations.
A more controversial option would be for the United States to announce that its mutual defense treaty with the Philippines includes the disputed Scarborough Shoal — similar to its 2014 announcement that the disputed Senkaku islands fell within the defensive perimeter of the U.S.-Japan security alliance. This would strengthen the U.S. commitment to defend its allies against Chinese encroachment, but might unintentionally promote more provocative behavior by the Philippines.3. Strengthen the U.S. military relationship with Vietnam. Bilateral relations have warmed dramatically in recent years. President Obama lifted the longstanding U.S. arms embargo in May, and recent U.S. military port visits signal the beginning of a closer military relationship. The United States could seekexpanded opportunities to exercise air and land capabilities with the Vietnamese, including the use of airbases and port facilities.The United States could also sell Vietnam fourth-generation F-16 or F/A-18 fighters, which would significantly improve its air defense capabilities and might prove a potent deterrent. These steps could improve long-term prospects for access, overflight, and perhaps evenrotational basing of U.S. ships, aircraft, or otherforces.4. Sustaina significant U.S. and international Coast Guard presence in the South China Sea. Beijing hasmasterfully employed commercial and coast guard-like vessels to advance its claims and intimidate its regional neighborsin the South China Sea for years, which has helped it avoid the international military response that naval ships might provoke. The United States and its partners could counter these tacticsby establishing a regular and visible coast guard presence. Only the United States has a major global coast guard capability, but some regional and even some international partners might be able to assist. As China has demonstrated, Coast Guard vessels are less provocative than warships, and their employment by the United States and partners could confront similar Chinese ships with far less risk of military escalation.5. Increase U.S. military activity in the South China Sea. The United States periodically patrols the South China Sea with its Nimitz-class carriers, and less frequently, with its large-deck amphibious carriers. The United States could ensure that a carrier strike group or amphibious ready group with power projection capabilities(including marines) remained in the S