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US boosting PH maritime defense vs ‘provocative’ China–envoy

/ 09:21 PM January 11, 2014

US ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg. AFP FILE PHOTO

FORT DEL PILAR, Baguio City – The United States is helping improve the Philippines’ maritime defense capability now that the American government has described as “dangerous” a new Chinese fishing law in disputed Asian waters, US Ambassador Philip Goldberg said here on Saturday.

Brushing aside another query about the resumption of American military bases in the Philippines to address a “provocative” China, Goldberg said what has been put on the table is “a framework agreement on enhanced rotational presence which would involve a greater cooperation between our two militaries.”

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This framework, which was proposed to the Philippines in August last year, would increase American naval presence in contested sea lanes to keep these waters free for commerce and navigation, according to the Philippines’ defense department.

“Our two militaries have deep, long-standing, historical relationships and what we are talking about doing is not about the 20th century and the bases, but about the 21st century and the kind of cooperation we can have to work together as we confront 21st century problems,” Goldberg told reporters after he was honored by the Philippine Military Academy here.

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“Don’t dwell on the past but think about what the future holds,” he said. “That’s what we are trying to do regionally.”

China had declared that all fishing vessels venturing into areas it considered part of Chinese territory must secure its permission. The West Philippine Sea, the name Manila uses for that part of the South China Sea it considered part of the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone, is among the  areas China now wants to control.

“The announcement by the Chinese is a provocative action, one that is again… a unilateral decision as opposed to a consensual one that is [reached by] discussion with other goverments in the region and in the Pacific area,” Goldberg said. “We don’t consider this a welcome step. It is not consistent with those principles we have articulated of free navigation in the air, free navigation in the seas.”

Goldberg did not discuss the status of the framework talks, except to stress that these involved “more trainings, more prepositioning” for the Filipino and American soldiers.

“The kind of things we do to help the Philippines as it moves toward a credible minimal defense, as it builds up its ability to do maritime security [and] maritime domain awareness,” he said.

Goldberg was given a parade by the PMA cadets. He spent the weekend in the summer capital to host the annual New Year cocktails at the US ambassador’s residence in Camp John Hay.

Earlier in a radio interview, Goldberg said multinational peace forged on consensus was the solution to 21st century problems.

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“I think the Philippines has taken a wise decision to handle these matters peacefully, legally, through the legal channels under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and alternatives that the convention offers,” he said.

He said the Philippines also excelled when it tried to “put together a code of conduct as to how countries should operate in the region and to do that together.”

But when countries make decisions on their own, the resulting action may lead to dangerous situations, he said, adding that is “something [that] should be avoided.”

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TAGS: China, Diplomacy, Foreign Affairs and International relations, Maritime Dispute, Philippines, territorial dispute, UP-Philippine relations, US, US aid, West Philippine Sea
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