News / Asia

    Philippines Host Meetings with US Officials to Discuss Defense

    Simone Orendain
    As tensions continue to simmer between the Philippines and China over competing claims in the South China Sea, the Philippines is cleaving more closely to its Mutual Defense Treaty partner, the United States.  Manila hosted several meetings this week with U.S. officials to discuss defense, maritime rule of law and strengthening other ties. 

    The Philippines has been more vocal in the past year about having a stronger stance against what it sees as aggressive territorial claims by China.  At the same time the United States has been making a policy shift toward Asia and the Pacific.

    As part of the change in focus, the Philippines is welcoming more frequent visits from U.S. military ships.  

    Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Carlos Sorreta says the increased U.S. presence will help put the Philippines in a better position to assert its claims in the sea. “We think it’s going to make it clear that the United States is engaged in the region and that sends the right signal that states must behave in a reasonable way, in a lawful way,” he said.

    The Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei all have territorial claims in the South China Sea, while China says about 90-percent of the sea is Chinese, based on ancient maps.  China has consistently said the disputes are between itself and each individual claimant country, not any outside party, especially not the United States.  

    In recent years, the Philippines and Vietnam each have had disputes with China over rock formations in an area of the South China Sea that is widely travelled, has abundant sea life and is potentially rich in fossil fuels.  

    The Philippines has been viewed as pushing for U.S. support in its territorial squabble.

    The chief of the U.S. Pacific Command, Admiral Samuel Locklear, in Manila for a Mutual Defense board meeting Thursday, reiterated the U.S.’s neutral position on the territorial disputes and again called for the parties’ peaceful management of the issue.

    “The Philippine armed forces understand the U.S. position on that and we understand the issues surrounding it as it impacts security of the Philippines as well. So we have good open dialogue and good open communication,” Locklear stated.

    China has significantly increased its defense budget in the past decade and is building up its military.  The increased U.S. presence in the Pacific is widely seen as a counter to this, especially for countries like the Philippines with a weak military, lacking in resources.

    Ian Storey of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore says the increased visits to the Philippines by U.S. ships and officials are a way for Washington “to flex its muscles [in the Asia Pacific] to show it is not going away.”  “The U.S. will presumably continue its capacity-building support for the Philippines… the Philippines is the weakest link in all this,” he said.

    Admiral Locklear says the capacity-building will have a stronger emphasis on humanitarian and disaster recovery (HADR) exercises that will also have other benefits.

    “Improve your inter-operability.  Improve your information-sharing.  Improve your intelligence.  Improve your common and shared values and goals.  And all of those add value not only in HADR, but add value to any contingency that you might perceive down the road,” Locklear explained.

    Carl Baker is program director of the Pacific Forum of the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.  He says muscle-flexing aside, it would not be productive for the U.S., with its struggling economy, to be involved in any confrontation in the region.  Instead, he says it is in the interest of U.S. national security to have more economic involvement.

    “To engage in a broad way in Asia and not narrowly be seen as a security guarantor.  That it sees a need to engage economically simply to help out the U.S. economy because as you know, economies in Southeast Asia are actually quite vibrant,” said Baker.

    But the Philippines is looking beyond the U.S. for support.  This week, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario told the Financial Times newspaper the Philippines would welcome a move by Japan to drop its pacifist military policy, saying this would make it “a significant balancing factor" in the region.  The Philippines also has pending deals with Italy and Japan to add boats to its Coast Guard fleet.

    You May Like

    Double Wave of Suicide Bombings Puts Lebanon, Refugees on Edge

    Following suicide bombings in Christian town of Al-Qaa, on Lebanon's northeast border with Syria, fears of further bombings have risen

    China Seeks On-Off Switch for Internet

    Public asks whose security is cybersecurity law aiming to protect

    UN Human Rights Chief: Burundi May Explode Into Ethnic Violence

    Burundian government accuses the UN of a campaign of distortion

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roari
    X
    June 28, 2016 10:33 AM
    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video New York Pride March A Celebration of Life, Mourning of Loss

    At this year’s march in New York marking the end of pride week, a record-breaking crowd of LGBT activists and allies marched down Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, in what will be long remembered as a powerful display of solidarity and remembrance for the 49 victims killed two weeks ago in an Orlando gay nightclub.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora