China’s biggest ally in the South China Sea? A volcano in the Philippines

On June 15, 1991, an otherwise unremarkable mountain in the Philippines blew its top. And with that massive eruption, Mount Pinatubo became an unlikely actor that profoundly shaped today’s South China Sea power contest.

Right in the line of fire of the volcanic eruption, just 9 miles (14.5 km) away, was Clark Air Base, then the most populated overseas US military installation in the world. Also nearby, about 20 miles distant, was the Subic Bay Naval Base.

The view of the Mount Pinatubo...

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