US assures Philippines of stronger defense ties-A A +A
Thursday, April 4, 2013
MANILA (Updated) -- The United States assured the Philippines of Washington's commitment to further strengthen its defense ties with Manila amid uncertainty and security challenges in the Asia-Pacific region.
US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel made the assurance during a meeting with Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario at the Pentagon.
"Secretary Hagel conveyed to us the need for the Philippines and the US to further deepen their partnership to uphold peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region," Del Rosario said in a statement Thursday.
"Secretary Hagel expressed his appreciation to what the Philippines is doing in the region and noted that our partnership is critical in our part of the world," he added.
Amid the security challenges in the region, both Del Rosario and Hagel agreed that the two countries' strategic alliance is "crucial and relevant."
Hagel said further developing the two countries alliance is "very, very important at this point in time" when there are tensions over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
The region is currently reeling from China's enormous economic and military growth, which has affected Beijing's relationships with its neighbors, especially because of their overlapping claims in the West Philippine Sea and East China Sea.
The Philippines and Japan, both allies of the United States, are locked in their own territorial disputes with China.
Del Rosario said Hagel expressed satisfaction with the progress being made regarding the increase of US military rotational presence in the Philippines.
This is part of Washington's "repivot" and "rebalance" to Asia, which is being pursued by US President Barack Obama in his second term, after being preoccupied with its campaign against terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Obama also recently met with Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the White House to thank him for allowing Washington to boost its naval and military presence in the region.
Later this month, the US is expected to start the rotational deployments of Navy vessels in the island city-state.
The meeting with Del Rosario was Hagel's first with a senior Philippine official since taking over the Pentagon in February.
It followed the meeting also on Tuesday between the secretary and Secretary of State John Kerry -- the former Massachusetts senator's first face-to-face encounter with a senior Filipino official since he succeeded Secretary Hillary Clinton at the Department of State in January.
Aside from the military engagement of both countries, other issues were also discussed, such as the US support for the modernization plans of the Armed Forces of the Philippines; the situation in Sabah and North Korea; and the investigation of the grounding of the USS Guardian, including the participation of the Philippines in the investigation; and the conduct of an environmental impact assessment of the incident. (CVB/Sunnex)