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US official gives Del Rosario ‘pep talk’

A senior US official on Friday met with Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario who is set to leave for Washington to get “substantive support” from the United States in the Philippines’ dispute with China in the South China Sea.

Scot Marciel, principal deputy assistant secretary at the Department of State’s Bureau of East Asian Pacific Affairs, was in the Philippines on April 16-18 as part of his regular visit to Southeast Asia.

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In a roundtable with Filipino reporters at the US Embassy in Manila, Marciel said he had a “broad discussion” with Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) officials on Friday on key regional issues, including China’s reclamation work, the rise of tensions in the South China Sea, and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement between the US and the Philippines.

“I reiterated [to the DFA] the concerns that we have made public about certain actions that we think undermine the overall positive environment in the region,” Marciel said, referring to the reclamation by China of contested islands in the South China Sea where it is building airstrips and military facilities.

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Marciel expressed the hope that all claimant nations in the South China Sea—the Philippines, China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei—would show restraint and refrain from provocative actions.

“We exchange ideas on how best to create that pattern of behavior among all the claimant states that will reduce tensions,” Marciel said, admitting that there was “more work to do” in addressing the problem.

The Philippines has an arbitration case pending in the Hague-based UN arbitral tribunal as it seeks to clarify its maritime entitlements in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and challenge China’s sweeping claims over nearly the entire South China Sea.

The Philippines protested China’s reclamation work on seven marine features as it said this undermined the case by altering the status quo, apart from destroying marine life.

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TAGS: Albert Del Rosario, Bureau of East Asian Pacific Affairs, Department of State, Scot Marciel, South China Sea, Southeast Asia
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