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Updated January 15th, 2024 at 14:08 IST

US boosts military arsenal and fuel stockpiles for Taiwan’s defence in face of Chinese aggression

The United States has confirmed a substantial fuel transfer from its military facility at Pearl Harbor to Subic Bay, Philippines, raising geopolitical concerns.

Yuvraj Tyagi
Taiwan Armed Forces
Taiwan Armed Forces | Image:AP
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In a significant development, the United States confirmed on January 12 that a substantial amount of fuel is being transferred from its military facility at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, to a commercial site in Subic Bay, Philippines. The move has sparked concerns and speculations, particularly as it aligns with escalating tensions over Taiwan, according to statements made by a Philippine lawmaker. 

The revelation about the fuel transfer emerged after various international shipping monitoring agencies identified the departure of the US-flagged tanker Yosemite Trader from Pearl Harbor on December 20. The tanker was later anchored approximately 50 km from Subic Bay on January 10, coinciding with reports of the US military's interest in re-establishing its presence in the region. 

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US Embassy spokesperson Kanishka Gangopadhyay confirmed the fuel transfer, stating, "We can confirm that the Yosemite Trader, a commercial tanker, is currently in the vicinity of Subic Bay, Philippines, in order to transfer clean fuel from the US military facility at Red Hill, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, to a commercial storage facility at Subic Bay." The embassy assured that the fuel transfer adhered to proper protocols and constituted one of "many regular shipments," with the fuel destined for a "commercial storage facility." 

Red Hill base clearance mandate 

The source of the fuel transfer, the Red Hill base in Pearl Harbor, was mandated by the Pentagon in 2022 to undergo clearance and decommissioning due to environmental hazards. However, the embassy official refrained from commenting on the prospective utilization of the mentioned fuel shipment.

Armed Forces of the Philippines soldiers partaking in a large-scale combined amphibious assault exercise on  August 25, 2023. | Credit- AP

While Colonel Medel Aguilar, spokesperson for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), asserted that the military has nothing to explain concerning the issue, the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority stated that the US tanker abandoned a plan to transfer fuel due to the absence of diplomatic clearance from Manila. 

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Senator Imee Marcos, expressing suspicions about the transfer's connection to the pre-positioning of military supplies amid predictions of a possible conflict over Taiwan, urged the government to provide more information. The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority's statement contradicted the US Embassy's confirmation, creating diplomatic complexities. 

Philippines-US security alliance and Taiwan tensions 

In early 2023, the Philippines and the US enhanced their security alliance under the provisions of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), expanding U.S. military access to bases in the Philippine archipelago. Subic Bay is not included in the locations specified by the EDCA, raising questions about the nature of the fuel transfer. 

Against the backdrop of heightened tensions between Washington and Beijing, particularly concerning Taiwan, the relocation of US fuel coincides with the upcoming presidential election in Taiwan. Several candidates expressing aspirations for Taiwanese independence have triggered warnings from Beijing, emphasizing the delicate geopolitical dynamics at play. 

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Published January 15th, 2024 at 14:08 IST

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