US diplomat’s position tickles Palace



MANILA, Philippines–The position taken by the nominee to become the top US diplomat in East Asia on the territorial disputes in the South China Sea is music to Malacañang’s ears, bolstering the Aquino administration’s decision to bring the Philippines’ conflict with China to the United Nations for arbitration.

US diplomat Danny Russel told a Senate panel at his confirmation hearing Thursday that there was no place for “coercion and bullying” in East Asia, referring to China’s growing assertiveness in its territorial disputes with Japan, Taiwan and four Southeast Asian countries, including the Philippines, in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea).

“That’s a welcome statement … [I]t’s in line with our efforts, with what we’ve been doing. Our position has always been that there’s no need for coercion when it comes to resolving our maritime disputes,” deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said in a radio interview on Saturday.

Russel told the Senate panel that he would do everything in his power to “lower the temperature” in territorial disputes in the South and East China Seas and push claimants, including China, toward diplomacy.

He also said it was “unacceptable” for China to demand only bilateral negotiations with the other claimants, and voiced strong US support for efforts by Southeast Asia to negotiate a “code of conduct” to manage the disputes—an issue to be taken up at regional security talks in Brunei later this month.

Russel is the current White House senior director for Asian affairs. If confirmed by the full Senate, he will become assistant secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, replacing Kurt Campbell who resigned in February.

Valte said Russel’s statement was “consistent with the statement of others supportive of our position—that this conflict should be resolved peacefully, within the proper venue and with the right process.”

She said the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) expected the arbitration case to move soon with the creation of a five-man team to handle the case in the United Nations International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (Itlos).

“I think the DFA expects that there will be movement. The next step, apart from the formation of the panel, [is] the panel deciding if it has jurisdiction over the action, and I think that is supposed to come sometime in July,” Valte said.

The panel of five international arbitrators that would hear the Philippine case against China’s claims in the West Philippine Sea was filled in April, after Judge Shunji Yanai, president of Itlos, appointed the last three members.

“That means the case is moving and, as expected, we are hoping that this case that we filed in the tribunal will proceed as soon as possible,” said DFA spokesperson Raul Hernandez when he announced the panel’s completion in a press briefing last month.

The arbitrators come from Sri Lanka, France, the Netherlands, Poland and Germany.

The Philippines filed the case on Jan. 22 in hopes of halting China’s incursion into established Philippine maritime borders in the West Philippine Sea.

The Philippine case also seeks to invalidate China’s  claim to nearly the whole sea, including parts within the exclusive economic zones of its Southeast Asian neighbors.

China has rejected the proceedings, citing “indisputable sovereignty” over virtually all of the resource-rich waters.

The process will, however, continue even without the participation of China, as stipulated in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

First posted 9:23 pm | Saturday, June 22nd, 2013

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  • Niccolo Machiavelli

    Irregardless of what their D****d position is about the West PH Sea dispute this should in no way put the PH in its procrastinating mood again in acquiring weapons and modernizing the AFP to bolster its defenses.

    • kanoy

      with what money? the entire 2013 budget was a puny P2 TRILLION=$45.5 MILLION
      it took half that ($25 mil) to scrap the $277 million USS GUARDIAN
      how many jets or ships can you buy with $45,5 million after you closed down all government offices and public schools and military payroll and spent the entire budget on it? ZERO

      • Niccolo Machiavelli

        Do some research first. I am not talking about CVN’s, SSBN’s, or any 5th Gen warplanes here.

      • tagatabas

        you are out of nowhere “kanoy” we are talking about billions here not millions. How do you arrived the amount of 2 trillion pesos if you have only 45.5 million dollars, come to think of it.

      • Pedring2

        This Kanuto is getting nervous – near to peeing in his smelly pants!

      • juan_luisjr

        2 trillion pesos is 45.5 billion us dollars NOT 45.5 million us dollars.

  • freedom of navigation

    China is nowhere near the disputed waters. The map clearly shows that only Vietnam, Brunei, Philippines and Malaysia have overlapping 200 miles Exclusive Economic Zone. Only these 4 nations are qualified in the dispute.

  • Jhun Ko

    Wag ng umasa pa sa mga kano na yan, dahil paaasahin lang ang Pinas nyan habang nakikipag negosasyon sila sa mga singkit beho. Tapos ilalaglag nila ang Pinas pag pumayag ang mga intsik beho na bitawan ang NOKOR.

    • juan_luisjr

      tama po

  • johndoe_phil

    Words are not enough. The Philippines should still continue modernizing the navy for credible defense. Collaborate with Japan or Israel for a defense research. The government should think long term. If we achieve a credible defense, China would think twice in grabbing or thieving PH territory.

    • juan_luisjr

      yup, we need to work and work smart and not depend on words.

  • disqusted0fu

    This is a good sign. Now why are we not seeing the same kind of effort for Sabah? Is it because the PH doesn’t have the support of the US on that? Or because the Aquino administration already got a good deal out of that???

  • $31552910

    The Philippines must not be overly dependent on its traditional allies and defense treaty partners for its external defense since foreign countries are expected to look out for their own strategic interests and economic interests or trade relations and they might be unwilling to provide military assistance to the Philippines or they might not want to put too much attention or importance to the security needs of the Philippines. The United States brokered a settlement between the Philippines and China during the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal standoff and China gained de facto control of the Panatag Shoal after Malacanang ordered the withdrawal of Philippine maritime enforcement vessels. Tensions are rising in the West Pacific because of China’s “nine dash line” territorial claims in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) or South China Sea (SCS) and the US strategic pivot or rebalance in the Asia Pacific region. The Philippines is a very vulnerable target if tensions in the West Pacific escalate since it does not have a credible defense posture. The Philippines has an annual defense budget of $2.5 to $3 billion (110 billion pesos to 132 billion pesos). To strengthen its external defense capability with its limited defense budget, the Philippines must shift its focus from internal security operations to external defense and adopt a practical national defense strategy based on strategic defense or asymmetric warfare with anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) deterrent capabilities. The immediate aim is not to match the military spending of potential adversaries with bigger economies and larger defense budgets but to make it unacceptably costly for any potential adversary to attack or bully the Philippines. Relatively inexpensive deterrent capabilities are coastal mobile anti-ship defense systems, mobile air-defense systems, portable air-defense systems or MANPADS, portable guided-missiles, combat and surveillance drones or UAVs, smart naval or sea mines, and fast-attack crafts and missile patrol boats armed with anti-ship missiles and surface-to-air missiles. The Philippines can easily build hundreds of low cost fast-attack trimarans or outrigger boats, which can be equipped with portable missiles.

  • reddfrog

    He talks tough as a nominee. If he actually got the job watch him toe the Obama administration’s line.

  • Patikotiko

    JUAN= Sam, tulungan mo muna ako bantayan bayan ko habang wla pa akong panlaban Kay Akong.
    SAM= sige Lang basta hwag ka maguumpisa magpaputok. Hayaan mo sila maguumpisa para me dahilan tayo gumanti.

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