Obama: Philippines Pact No Threat to China

Joseph Keefe
Monday, April 28, 2014

US says not planning to rebuild old bases or construct new ones. Obama says goal is not to contain China while Philippines' Aquino says Chinese shouldn't be concerned.

President Barack Obama said a new military pact signed with the Philippines on Monday granting a larger presence for U.S. forces would bolster the Southeast Asian country's maritime security, but was not aimed at countering China's growing military might.

The agreement, which will have an initial 10-year term, was touted as the highlight of Obama's first visit to the Philippines, the United States' oldest ally in the region.

It sets the framework for a beefed-up rotation of U.S. troops, ships and warplanes through the Philippines, part of a rebalancing of U.S. resources towards fast-growing Asia and the Pacific.

But China interprets the move as an attempt to contain its increasing military capability and embolden Manila in a decades-long territorial dispute with Beijing.

"The goal for this agreement is to build Philippine capacity to engage in training, engage in coordination, not simply to deal with issues of maritime security, but also to enhance our capabilities so that if there is a natural disaster that takes place we can respond quickly," Obama told a joint news conference in Manila after talks with President Benigno Aquino.

"Our goal is not to counter China, our goal is not to contain China. Our goal is to make sure that international rules and norms are respected, and that includes the area of maritime disputes."

He reiterated Washington's support for Manila's move to seek international arbitration over conflicting territorial claims in the South China Sea, an important shipping route that is believed to be rich in energy resources.

REGIONAL TENSIONS

The Philippines is the last stop on a week-long tour of Asia partly aimed at reassuring U.S. allies that Washington remains committed to its strategic "pivot" to the region.

Obama said all four countries he has visited, including Japan, which has its own dispute with China over tiny islands in the East China Sea, were committed to seeking a peaceful resolution of territorial issues.

China claims about 90 percent of the South China Sea, a claim that overlaps with those of the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan.

China has rejected international arbitration, preferring a bilateral route to solving the jurisdictional disputes.

Rising regional tensions were highlighted by a commentary from China's state news agency Xinhua criticising the pact.

"Given that the Philippines is at a bitter territorial row with China, the move is particularly disturbing as it may embolden Manila in dealing with Beijing," the commentary said.

"A more assertive or even reckless Manila would stoke regional tensions and in turn upset Obama's policy of rebalancing."

Aquino said China "shouldn't be concerned" about the new agreement, which is aimed at increasing joint military training, especially for disaster relief operations.

The United States and the Philippines will hold joint exercises next week in areas mostly north of the capital.

"We are not a threat militarily to any country, we don't even have ... presently a single fighter aircraft in our inventory," Aquino said, adding his country had "legitimate needs" to protect its 36,000 km (22,370 miles) coastline.

NO NEW BASES

The United States was not seeking to rebuild old military bases or construct new ones under the agreement, said Obama, who was greeted with a 21-gun salute upon his arrival at the presidential palace in the former U.S. colony.

Dozens of anti-U.S. protesters shouted slogans and waved banners to protest against his visit outside the palace.

The United States had maintained two military bases northwest of Manila, including Subic Bay, which was once its biggest overseas naval base, until the Philippine Senate ordered U.S. troops to leave in 1991.

Eight years later, the Senate approved an agreement providing for temporary visits by U.S. forces, allowing the staging of joint military exercises.

Officials said the new security accord did not specify the number of U.S. troops and equipment to be deployed in the country, with those details to be discussed separately by the two governments.

"They can do construction and upgrade of infrastructure, they can store or preposition defence equipment, supplies and material, as well as hard equipment and supplies," said Lourdes Yparraguirre, Philippine ambassador to Austria and a member of the negotiating panel that worked on the deal for eight months.

"China was never discussed in the negotiations," she told reporters on the sidelines of a signing ceremony hours before Obama's arrival.

"We don't aim to contain or confront anyone. I hope that our neighbours in the region would also view this agreement as a positive contribution to peace, stability, security and prosperity in the region."

While some analysts believe the new military agreement with Washington raises Manila's military capabilities, others think it will create more problems for the country.

"Relations with China...will deteriorate further in the context of maritime disputes. China is averse to any Philippine government initiative to involve the U.S. in its security agenda," said Rommel Banlaoi, analyst at the Center for Intelligence and National Security in Manila.

"We are strengthening our relationship with the U.S. at the expense of our relationship with China," he said.

 

By Rosemarie Francisco and Mark Felsenthal

Maritime Reporter July 2014 Digital Edition
FREE Maritime Reporter Subscription
Latest Maritime News    rss feeds

Navy

DSME Gets UK Shipyard Consulting Contract

S. Korea's DSME says it is to provide naval vessel production and management consulting services for British defense company BAE. Under the terms of the agreement,

Northrop Grumman Awarded Navy IT Contract

Grumman Corporation informs it has been selected by the US Navy as one of five contractors for the Consolidated Afloat Networks and Enterprise Services (CANES)

Update to Fire Damage to Australian Patrol Boat

Armidale Class Patrol Boat HMAS Bundaberg suffered significant damage due to a fire which occurred on Monday, August 11, 2014 in Brisbane. The boat was undergoing

Maritime Security

Russia Sanctions Could Slow Norwegian Arctic Exploration

Western sanctions against Russia may slow down exploration for oil and gas on both the Norwegian and Russian side of the Arctic Barents Sea, lobby group Norwegian Oil & Gas told Reuters on Wednesday.

Maritime Security West Conference Underway in Tacoma

On water and in the air, maritime security involves local, state and federal stakeholders The 2014 Maritime Security West conference is underway in Tacoma, Washington.

China Rejects Manila Protests, Laments Detentions

China rejected Philippine complaints on Wednesday about Chinese survey vessels operating in a gas-rich area of Manila's exclusive economic zone, and has lodged

Eye on the Navy

Update to Fire Damage to Australian Patrol Boat

Armidale Class Patrol Boat HMAS Bundaberg suffered significant damage due to a fire which occurred on Monday, August 11, 2014 in Brisbane. The boat was undergoing

Aircraft Carrier Hull Ready for Delivery

A large section of HMS Prince of Wales has been loaded out of its dock hall in Portsmouth ready for delivery to Rosyth for final assembly of the second Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carrier to begin.

Nuship Canberra Embarks on Final Sea Trials

Nuship Canberra, the first of two Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD) ships being built for the Australian Defense Force, has sailed on her final contractor sea trials

Government Update

High Bids in Western GofM Lease Sale

U.S. Government agency BOEM informs that Western Gulf of Mexico Lease Sale 238 attracted US$109,951,644 million in high bids for 81 tracts covering 433,823 acres on the U.

GoM Sale Yields $110m in High Bids

As part of President Obama’s all-of-the-above energy strategy to continue to expand safe and responsible domestic energy production, today’s Western Gulf of Mexico Lease Sale 238 attracted $109,

Refiners Seek Jones Act Workarounds as Crude Export Debate Heats Up

As the first U.S. oil condensate exports head to Asia from the Gulf Coast, crude producers and refiners are exploring ways to get around a century-old law that

 
 
Maritime Careers / Shipboard Positions Maritime Contracts Maritime Security Naval Architecture Navigation Pipelines Pod Propulsion Port Authority Salvage Ship Repair
rss | archive | history | articles | privacy | terms and conditions | contributors | top maritime news | about us | copyright | maritime magazines
maritime security news | shipbuilding news | maritime industry | shipping news | maritime reporting | workboats news | ship design | maritime business

Time taken: 0.1850 sec (5 req/sec)