US renews commitment to PH security amid tensions in Asia

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MANILA, Dec. 18 — The United States renews its commitment to the security of the Philippines and the Asian region with the visit of US Secretary of State John Kerry in the country.

Kerry arrived in the Philippines Tuesday morning and met President Benigno S. Aquino III later in the day.

In a joint press conference after a meeting with Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, Kerry said the US is committed to address the most pressing Philippine security challenge.

This is the reason why the US and the Philippines are negotiating for a strong and enduring framework agreement that would enhance defense cooperation between the two countries including increased rotational presence of US forces in the Philippines, he said.

Part of this initiative is the commitment of the United States of $40 million to improve the country’s capability for maritime security and maritime domain awareness, according to Kerry.

The US government is also working to reduce tension in the territories with maritime disputes in Asia.

To lessen tensions, Kerry said the US strongly supported the immediate conclusion of the ASEAN-China Code of Conduct in the West Philippine Sea as a key to reducing the risk of accidents and miscalculations.

Through the code, claimants will have the responsibility to clarify their claims and align it with international law, Kerry he added. The United States believes it would be the best way to proceed in resolving the disputes in the West Philippine Sea, the American official said.

Second, the US support the international dispute resolution mechanism such as those provided under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

“The United States strongly opposes the use of intimidation, coercion or aggression to advance territorial claims. And I assured the foreign secretary that the US remains firmly committed to the security of the Philippines and the region,” Kerry said.

The US does not recognize China’s recent announcement of an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) with its conflicting claim with Japan. China should refrain from taking similar unilateral action elsewhere in the region and particularly in the West Philippine Sea, he said.

The West Philippine Sea, believed to be rich in oil and natural gas deposits, is also a major sea lane for global trade and commerce. Among the claimant countries or states include the Philippines, China, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Indonesia. (PNA)

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