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Austin shores up vital US-Philippine ties on Southeast Asia trip

Maintaining troop pact with Manila gives Pentagon options for pivot to China

WASHINGTON/MANILA -- U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin's tour of Southeast Asia marked a step toward rebuilding alliances and regaining trust that had been declining in recent years, a prime task as China's regional influence continues to grow.

"At the top of my agenda was finding ways to enhance and reinvigorate our alliance," Austin said in a joint news conference with Philippine counterpart Delfin Lorenzana in Manila on Friday.

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