facilities, in a manner consistent with the 1997 Guidelines Review discussed above. These bases will continue to be seen as essential platforms for US forces to maintain a forward presence necessary to fulfill their broader role in maintaining regional stability.
With its withdrawal from Vietnam and the Philippines, the United States ceased to have any Southeast Asian bases after 1992. It is not likely that it will ever replace those bases. However, in recent years the United States has negotiated 'access' agreements for its naval and air forces with several nations in the region--and that trend is growing. In January 1998 the United States and Singapore concluded an agreement allowing US aircraft carriers and other warships to dock at a new port in Singapore beginning in the year 2000. Although a previous agreement allowed smaller US ships maintenance access, carriers had to anchor offshore. Also in January 1998 representatives of the US government and the government of the Philippines initialed a Visiting Forces Agreement, which, if confirmed by the Philippine Senate, will enable the United States and the Philippines to resume major military exercises, combined training, and ship visits, thus restoring some measure of the access it lost in 1992. 46
Nearly all the major trends--strategic, military/technological, political and economic--point to an enduring, equally or more capable, smaller, more dispersed, high-tech US forward military presence in the Asia-Pacific region well into the 21st century, with a greater emphasis on mobile air and naval forces and a lesser emphasis on heavy, fixed, land-based ground combat units. This force will seek to deploy a new generation of advanced weaponry that will maintain the US lead in that regard, while maintaining readiness to respond to crises. The main constraints will be economic, but the strong US economy should be able to sustain a substantial presence in the region for a long time. An improving geo-strategic situation will result in a smaller US force, of course. Should that situation deteriorate badly, the United States, with permission where appropriate, will retain or even increase the forward-deployed forces necessary to sustain its firm commitment to peace and prosperity in the region.