As President Donald Trump seeks to strengthen the U.S.-Philippine alliance, his administration is embarking on two controversial actions that risk inflaming Asia-Pacific tensions.
That is, Washington has been helping Manila fund its deadly anti-narcotics campaign and is looking to maintain a military presence in the South China Sea to prevent Beijing from further territorial expansion.
The Pentagon and the Philippine army are discussing the development of U.S. facilities on Philippine airbases near disputed islands in the international waterway, Richard Heydarian, author and political science professor at Manila-based De La Salle University, told CNBC on Monday.
Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department has also been providing the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency with funding for counter-narcotics operations, Heydarian continued.
Both measures are seen as highly beneficial for Manila, which has contested Beijing's historical claim to roughly 90 percent of the South China Sea and is drawing increased international criticism for its controversial drug war.
Trump, who met with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday, has taken steps to reignite the 70 year-old bilateral relationship that cooled under former President Barack Obama's administration.
But the White House's actions risk stirring up trouble: American activity in the South China Sea could trigger ire from Beijing, while funding for a drug war rife with allegations of extrajudicial killings may be seen as a sign of U.S. endorsement of human rights violations.