Senator hopes PH will also get same vow
MANILA, Philippines—Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano hopes US President Barack Obama will categorically state that the United States will defend the Philippines if it is attacked by China over disputed islands in the West Philippine Sea.
In an interview with Japan’s Yomiuri newspaper ahead of his departure for a four-nation tour of the Asia-Pacific region that began on Wednesday, Obama said the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, being administered by Japan, fell within the scope of the US-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security, and an attack by China on Japan over those islands would invite a reaction from the United States.
Speaking at a news forum on Thursday, Cayetano said he hoped Obama, whose tour of the region also takes in the Philippines, would categorically state that the United States is likewise obligated under its Mutual Defense Treaty with the Philippines.
“In the case of Japan, they made it very clear that these islands are covered by the defense treaty. So that’s what the Philippines wants and that’s what the Filipinos need, I think, at this point in time—a very clear statement from the United States through their president saying that these islands, this area, is Philippine territory,” Cayetano said, referring to Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal), Ayungin Shoal (Second Thomas Shoal) and other islands in the Spratly archipelago in the West Philippine Sea, the part of the South China Sea within the Philippines’ 327-kilometer exclusive economic zone.
China has seized Panatag Shoal and has been harassing Philippine vessels at Ayungin Shoal since Manila, which has the weakest military in the region, took the dispute to the United Nations for arbitration in January last year.
“I am hoping that a statement will be made when the [US] president visits,” Cayetano said.
Obama is arriving next Monday, after visits to South Korea and Malaysia.
He will meet with President Aquino in Malacañang for wide-ranging discussions that may include China’s incursions into Philippine territory in the South China Sea.
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