Your Friday Briefing: The U.S. Military Expands in the Philippines

The two countries announced an agreement that would allow the U.S. to gain access to four more sites in the Philippines. The plans for a larger U.S. military presence in the country come amid fears about a possible Chinese invasion of Taiwan.

The deal signifies the first time in 30 years that the U.S. will have such a large military presence in the Philippines. Among the U.S.’s five treaty allies in Asia, the Philippines and Japan are closest geographically to Taiwan, with the Philippines’ northernmost island of Itbayat just 93 miles away.

The Philippines’ defense secretary declined to name the locations of the four additional sites, but U.S. officials have long eyed access to land in the Philippines’ northern territory, such as the island of Luzon, as a way to counter China in the event that it attacks Taiwan.

A shift in Manila: Since he took office last June, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has sought to revive his country’s relationship with the U.S. after it deteriorated under Rodrigo Duterte. Officials have started building contingency plans for a possible Chinese invasion of Taiwan. Here is a brief history of the U.S. military alliance with the Philippines.

China reacts: A spokeswoman for China’s foreign ministry accused the U.S. of threatening regional peace and stability with its announcement. She said countries in the region should “avoid being coerced and used by the United States.”

A battle for influence: China and the U.S. are wooing Indonesia. Its strategic location, with about 17,000 islands straddling thousands of miles of vital sea lane, is a defensive necessity as both sides gear up for a possible conflict over Taiwan.

In a speech delivered in Volgograd, formerly known as Stalingrad, President Vladimir Putin compared Germany’s decision to provide Ukraine with tanks to the Soviet Union’s fight against the Nazis in World War II. He said it was “unbelievable” that Russia was “again being threatened” by German tanks.

“We aren’t sending our tanks to their borders,” Putin said. “But we have the means to respond, and it won’t end with the use of armor.”

During the defiant speech commemorating the 80th anniversary of the Soviet triumph in the battle over the Nazis in Stalingrad, Putin vowed that Russia would be victorious in Ukraine. His remarks came as Ukrainian officials warned that Moscow was opening a new offensive aimed at capturing more of eastern Ukraine.

On the battlefield: Hours before Putin spoke, Russian missiles hit the city of Kramatorsk, a critical base for Ukrainian military operations.

Today: Top E.U. officials are in Kyiv for a meeting with Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine’s president. They will discuss Ukraine’s reconstruction and its candidacy for membership in the bloc.

The spy thriller “Pathaan” has broken a string of box office records despite efforts by right-wing Hindu nationalists to block the film.

The fans who flocked to see the Bollywood-infused movie were probably not there to defy hard-right activists, analysts said. Instead, they most likely wanted to see Shah Rukh Khan, the star of the film, who at 57 toned his abs to play an action hero.

Khan spent four years off screen after the Hindu nationalist government leveled drug charges against his son, which turned out to be unfounded and which many saw as an attempt to vilify him. “I think it was this thirst to watch Shah Rukh Khan on the screen again,” said Pramit Chatterjee, a film critic and writer. Here’s our review.

Context: The movie’s largest political message, if it has one, is that the hero who saves India is a Muslim in a country where 200 million religious minorities are increasingly painted by right-wing Hindu groups as outsiders and threats to the nation.

As New Zealand’s leader, Jacinda Ardern might have been known for many things on the international stage, but her wardrobe was rarely among them.

Yet she always understood that fashion was a political tool — one she wielded so easily and subtly in the service of her agenda that most people didn’t realize it was happening, our chief fashion critic writes.

The journalist Martinez Zogo was found dead this month in Cameroon, his body showing signs of torture. The killing has sent shock waves through West Africa.

Zogo was editor in chief of the privately owned radio broadcaster Amplitude FM, and he hosted a hugely popular daily show, Embouteillage (the French word for traffic jam), which regularly exposed corruption. In the weeks before his death, Zogo spoke openly of the death threats he’d received as a result of his investigation into embezzlement at Cameroon’s public institutions.

Reporters Without Borders describes Cameroon as having one of the continent’s richest, but also most dangerous, media landscapes. In 2019, the journalist Samuel Ajiekah Abuwe, known as Wazizi, died in police custody. Zogo’s death is emblematic of shrinking press freedom across the region. In Senegal, a prominent investigative reporter, Pape Alé Niang, was released on bail this month after he staged a hunger strike to protest a weekslong detention.

As The Times’s West Africa correspondent, Elian Peltier, warns, “Intimidation, detention, deaths, as alarming and important as they are, also hide more structural issues for the press in many West and Central African countries.” Chief among those is a lack of funding and political will to protect reporters. — Lynsey Chutel, Briefings writer based in Johannesburg.

These meatballs can be paired with Italian, Mexican or Middle Eastern flavors; their versatility is limitless.

Leave a Comment