RTT News – June 24, 2011
The United States has made it clear that it is committed to the defense of the Philippines if China attacks Filipino forces in the Spratly Islands.
The warning came from Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton while responding to a question at a joint news conference with her Philippine counterpart Albert del Rosario on Thursday.
“We are determined and committed to supporting the defense of the Philippines, and that means trying to find ways of providing affordable material and equipment that will assist the Philippine military to take the steps necessary to defend itself and to have a credible response against external threats at home and at the South China Sea”, she told reporters in Washington, DC, after talks with Rosario.
Claims of sovereignty and jurisdiction over the South China Sea heightened tensions among other maritime nations in the region recently.
Last week, China reiterated its claim to the entire South China Sea and its island groups, but ruled out the use of force to resolve disputes or impede navigation through the strategic waterways in the disputed region.
Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Brunei and Malaysia have staked claims to the Spratly Islands, a cluster of islands in the South China Sea. Both Vietnam and the Philippines have accused Beijing in recent weeks of being “aggressive” as it pursues its maritime claims.
Clinton said the U.S. government was in discussions with its Philippine counterparts about “what their needs are because it is up to them to decide how to deploy forces and what their highest priorities are, and I will let the (Defense) Secretary respond to that.”
She promised “to do what we can to support the Philippines in their desires for external support for maritime defense and the other issues that we have discussed and that the (Philippine Foreign) Secretary is discussing in other meetings as well.”
There will be an upcoming U.S.-Philippines joint naval exercise starting on June 28, which Clinton described as “one more example of our close relationship.”
Clinton said territorial disputes in the South China Sea would be one of the most important issues on the agenda at the first high-level Asia Pacific consultation between the United States and China in Hawaii over the weekend.
Assistant Secretary Kurt Campbell will be leading the U.S. side in the dialogue.
Philippine Foreign Secretary Rosario said Manila was concerned about the “aggressive intrusions” being made by Chinese vessels on the West Philippine Sea, as the Filipinos call the South China Sea.
He said nine intrusions, which are becoming more aggressive and more frequent, were noticed since February 25. He added that Chinese response to diplomatic protests over these intrusions were not acceptable. China is claiming that the South China Sea is totally within their sovereignty under the 9-line concept that they are submitting to the international community.
He said the Philippine government was calling attention to everyone that there should be a rules-based regime that should be put in force so that international law would prevail over the South China Sea.
Rosario called upon China to abide by this and expressed hope that the issue could be resolved diplomatically and in accordance with international law.