US defense chief coming for war games amid China tension
United States defense secretary Ashton Carter will be in Manila next week to meet with his Philippine counterpart in connection with the Balikatan joint exercises between Philippine and US forces to increase Philippine military capability in in the disputed South China Sea.
“Carter will visit next week because the Philippines is an important ally of the United States. [The visit] comes in conjunction with the Balikatan exercises,” said US ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg in an interview with reporters yesterday at an American Chamber of Commerce meeting in Makati City.
Goldberg said Carter will meet with key government officials during the visit. “Secretary Carter will also hold meetings with the (US and Philippine) troops involved in the Balikatan exercises which is important to him as defense secretary,” he said.
Goldberg, meanwhile, extended his condolences to the family and friends of a Filipino Air Force officer who died in a tragic accident during the Balikatan exercises.
He said the US embassy was working closely with Philippine authorities to investigate the incident.
“He will be remembered for his great courage and service to his country. We are working closely with our Filipino counterparts to investigate the incident,” said Goldberg.
Tension bad for business
In the same forum, Philippine ambassador to the US Jose Cuisia Jr. told US businessmen in the Philippines to make a stand amid China’s aggressive military buildup and activities that he said pose uncertainties to businesses in the Southeast Asian region.
“I encourage Amcham (American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines) to articulate in no uncertain terms that the business community will not tolerate the current situation in the South China Sea dictated by China,” he told US businessmen gathered at the event.
“A militarized and tension-gripped South China Sea where the rule of the cannon prevails is not good for business,” he said.
Cuisia said there were ongoing discussions to increase naval defense through joint patrol activities in the disputed South China Sea territories.
Cuisia also told the forum that the United States was providing its biggest military assistance to the Philippines this year since 2001, allocating $121 million in military aid.
“It is the biggest for sometime since the United States resumed fund assistance in 2001 following the US bases removal in 1991,” he said.
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