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LOOK: US and PH defense chiefs visit South China Sea

/ 12:06 PM April 16, 2016
US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter (second from left), Philippine Defense Sec. Voltaire Gazmin (second from right) and Armed Forces of the Philippines chief Gen. Hernando Iriberri visit the USS John Stennis. PHOTO FROM US DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE'S FACEBOOK PAGE

US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter (second from left), Philippine Defense Sec. Voltaire Gazmin (second from right) and Armed Forces of the Philippines chief Gen. Hernando Iriberri visit the USS John Stennis. PHOTO FROM US DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE’S FACEBOOK PAGE

US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter on Friday visited a US carrier in the South China Sea, an increasingly assertive stance in the face of China’s sweeping expansion in the disputed waterway.

Carter visited the USS John Stennis with Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Armed Forces chief Gen. Hernando Iriberri. The US carrier was sailing within the exclusive economic zone of the Philippine claims in the West Philippine Sea.

READ: US Defense Secretary Carter to visit warship in South China Sea

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They also rode a helicopter, and hovered at the gas-rich Recto Bank (Reed Bank), which is claimed by China despite being within the Philippines’ 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone.

The US Secretary of Defense was in the Philippines to observe the Balikatan, the joint exercise involving troops of the US and the Philippines.

In his message, Carter said it was “standing up” for the Philippines and other countries affected by China’s aggressiveness in the disputed waters.

Philippine Secretary of Defense Voltaire Gazmin and US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter aboard the USS John Stennis. PHOTO FROM THE PHILIPPINE DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE

Philippine Secretary of Defense Voltaire Gazmin and US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter aboard the USS John Stennis. PHOTO FROM THE PHILIPPINE DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE

“China’s actions are causing anxiety and raising tensions. In response, countries in the Asia Pacific that are long standing allies and new partners are reaching out to the US to uphold the rules and principles that would allow the region to thrive, and we are answering that call, we are standing with these countries, we are standing up for those rules and principles,” he said.

READ: China blasts new US-Philippine military cooperation

He also thanked the troops and sailors for their active participation in the PH-US Balikatan exercises and emphasized their importance in the region.

The visiting officials also witnessed flight deck operations aboard the US carrier.

Defense officials of the Philippines and the United States watch the operations at the USS John Stennis. PHOTO FROM THE PHILIPPINE DEPARTMENT OF NATIONAL DEFENSE

Defense officials of the Philippines and the United States watch the operations at the USS John Stennis. PHOTO FROM THE PHILIPPINE DEPARTMENT OF NATIONAL DEFENSE

Gazmin also thanked the troops for taking part in the Balikatan: “This is a clear exemplification of ‘honor, courage, commitment,’ the core values of the US Navy.

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“We are also as ever reliant on the strong bond of sympathy and mutual ideals shared by our two peoples, close friends and allies, to fight side-by-sude against the threats of external aggression as we did in the past,” he added.

The officials also visited the Antonio Air Base in Palawan, one of the agreed base locations under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement. IDL

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TAGS: Ashton Carter, Balikatan, China, Hernando Iriberri, Philippines, Recto Bank, Reed Bank, sea row, territorial dispute, United States, US, USS John Stennis, Voltaire Gazmin
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