President Barack Obama took another implicit swipe at China's foreign policy Tuesday as he wrapped up a week-long, four-nation tour of Asia.
Speaking to U.S. and Philippine troops before departing Manila, President Obama repeated his administration's long-held stances on China's maritime disputes.
"We believe that all nations and peoples have the right to live in security and peace and have their sovereignty and territorial integrity respected. We believe that international law must be held, that freedom of navigation must be preserved, and commerce must not be impeded. We believe that disputes must be resolved peacefully and not be intimidation or force," said Obama.
The comments, which did not mention China by name, come a day after Washington and Manila signed a new defense deal to expand the U.S. military presence in the Pacific nation.
Obama stressed that the U.S. commitment to defend the Philippines is "iron-clad." He cited a 1951 treaty in which both nations agreed to protect one another if attacked.
The closer military relationship is widely seen as a response to Beijing, which is involved in a worsening dispute with Manila over territory in the South China Sea.
VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez, who is traveling with Obama, said the deal represents one of the "high notes" of the president's trip.
"The United States was able to secure a defense agreement that brings back U.S. troops to the [Philippine] islands at their largest scale since the U.S. closed down its permanent bases more than two decades ago," said Ramirez.
Obama on Monday said the new security agreement is not meant to "counter" or "control" China, but this has done little to ease worries among many Chinese leaders.
That concern was expressed in several editorials in China's state-run newspapers, which though not official statements, often reflect the government's position.
The China Daily
said Obama's trip shows it is "increasingly obvious that Washington is taking Beijing as an opponent." The paper accused the U.S. of "ganging up with troublemaker allies" and said it is presenting itself as a "security threat to China."
The official Xinhua news agency said Monday the U.S.-Philippine deal was "particularly disturbing," as it may embolden Manila in dealing with Beijing and could provide U.S. backing for the Philippines to "confront China."
The 10-year deal will allow a larger U.S. security presence in the islands and the rotation of U.S. troops and equipment, such as ships and fighter jets, into Philippine military bases. No new U.S. bases will be built and no old U.S. bases will be reclaimed under the deal.
Last week, Beijing was also angry that Obama signed a statement explicitly stating that a group of disputed islands in the East China Sea are covered in a mutual defense treaty with Japan. The treaty obliges the U.S. to come to the defense of Tokyo if attacked.
The Philippines and Japan are involved in two of the most heated territorial disputes between China and its neighbors. Other Asian countries also accuse China of using its rising military strength to intimidate, threaten, or take over disputed area from their forces.
President Barack Obama speaks to military troops at Fort Bonifacio, saying a new military pact signed with the Philippines on Monday, April 27 granting a larger presence for U.S. forces would bolster the region's maritime security, Manila, April 29, 2014.
President Barack Obama states during a joint news conference with President Benigno Aquino III, that a 10-year agreement signed Monday, April 27, will give the U.S. military greater access to Philippine bases, helping to promote peace and stability in the region, Malacanang Palace, Manila, April 28, 2014.
Police use a water cannon on "Bayan Muna" (My Country First) activists who tried to march to the U.S. embassy protesting President Barack Obama's visit, Manila April 29, 2014.
The tail section of Air Force One is pictured on the tarmac at Elmendorf Air Force Base outside Anchorage, Alaska, as President Barack Obama stayed onboard during a refuel stop on his return to the United States from Asia, April 29, 2014.
U.S. President Barack Obama waves to the media upon arrival at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila, Philippines, April 28, 2014.
U.S. President Barack Obama, center, stands to speak as he attends a state dinner with Philippine President Benigno Aquino III at Malacanang Palace in Manila, Philippines, April 28, 2014.
Philippine activists pull barbed wire fence as they try to go near the Malacanang Palace during a rally to oppose the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement between the Philippines and U.S., Manila, Philippines, April 28, 2014.
An activist holds a protest sign near the Malacanang Palace in Manila, Philippines, April 28, 2014.
President Barack Obama is welcomed by South Korean President Park Geun-hye at the Blue House in Seoul, April 25, 2014.
President Barack Obama and Japan's Empress Michiko attend a welcome ceremony at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, April 24, 2014.
President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe shake hands at the conclusion of their joint news conference at the Akasaka State Guest House in Tokyo, April 24, 2014.
President Barack Obama and ASIMO, an acronym for Advanced Step in Innovative MObility, bow to each other during a youth science event at the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation in Tokyo, April 24, 2014.