Obama backs Philippines over South China Sea

The United States and the Philippines called for freedom of navigation in the tense South China Sea as the White House offered a robust show of support for President Benigno Aquino.

President Barack Obama welcomed Aquino to the White House in the latest high-profile gesture to put a focus on US ties to Asia, where a number of countries are embroiled in territorial conflicts with a rising China.

Addressing reporters next to Aquino in the Oval Office, Obama said the two leaders spoke about "trying to make sure that we have a strong set of international norms and rules governing maritime disputes in the region."

In a joint statement released afterward, the two leaders "underscored the importance of the principles of ensuring freedom of navigation, respect for international law and unimpeded lawful commerce."

Aquino and Obama called for diplomacy to resolve territorial disputes "without coercion or the use of force."

China claims virtually all of the South China Sea up to Southeast Asian nations' shores and tensions have soared in recent years with both the Philippines and Vietnam.

The Philippines and China recently pulled back vessels after a standoff over the Scarborough Shoal, which lies near the main Philippine island of Luzon.

Aquino's visit to the United States was closely watched in China, where some policymakers suspect -- despite official US denials -- that the United States is seeking to encircle the growing Asian power.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, toasting Aquino earlier Friday at a luncheon in his honor, credited Aquino with defusing tensions over the rock formation.

The United States and the Philippines signed agreements to step up cooperation on science and technology and to boost the number of Peace Corps volunteers in the former US colony.

But Aquino's visit was largely symbolic, with many US policymakers believing that the son of democracy heroine Corazon Aquino has revitalized an often overlooked relationship by tackling hard issues.

Aquino recently won a major battle in his campaign against corruption with the sacking of the country's top judge. Aquino has also agreed to let more US troops rotate -- but not be based -- in the Philippines despite the historical baggage.

"I've always found President Aquino to be a thoughtful and very helpful partner," Obama said.

"And I think that as a consequence of the meeting today in which we discussed not only military and economic issues, but also regional issues -- for example, trying to make sure that we have a strong set of international norms and rules governing maritime disputes in the region -- that I'm very confident that we're going to see continued friendship and strong cooperation between our two countries," he said.

Aquino said his meeting with Obama has "deepened and strengthened a very long relationship we have, especially as we face the challenges that are before both our countries in the current situation."

Clinton and Obama both voiced support for efforts by the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations to reach a code of conduct with China on managing disputes in the South China Sea, through which half of the world's trade flows.

ASEAN and China agreed in 2002 to negotiate a code of conduct. But there has been little progress, with a rising China preferring to negotiate with each country individually instead of dealing with the unified bloc.

In the statement, Obama also pledged US support for Aquino's efforts to upgrade the notoriously antiquated Philippine military and build a "minimum credible defense posture."

The United States has stepped up military aid, including last year delivering a decommissioned coast guard cutter -- which the Philippines rechristened the Gregario del Pilar and replaced a World War II-era vessel as its navy's biggest ship.

The Obama administration has focused on building relations in Asia. In the next week alone, the United States will separately welcome the foreign ministers of Cambodia, India, South Korea and Thailand.

Loading...

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • EU threatens Thailand with seafood ban over illegal fishing
    EU threatens Thailand with seafood ban over illegal fishing

    BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union has given Thailand six months to drastically crack down on illegal and unregulated fishing or face an EU seafood import ban, but has lifted the threat of similar action against South Korea and the Philippines. …

  • Philippines accuses China of turning water cannon on its fishing boats

    Filipino activists denounced China's coast guard on Tuesday for turning water cannon on Philippine fishing boats in disputed waters, near where hundreds of Filipino and American Marines landed on a beach in a mock assault. The presidential palace in Manila said China's coast guard used water cannon on Monday to drive away a group of Filipino fishermen at Scarborough Shoal, damaging some of their wooden boats. …

  • Image of Asia: Training to storm a beach in the Philippines
    Image of Asia: Training to storm a beach in the Philippines

    In this photo by Bullit Marquez, a U.S. Navy amphibious assault vehicle with Philippine and U.S. troops on board storms the beach during a joint exercise at the Naval Education and Training Command center in Zambales province, northwest of Manila. The Zambales shore faces the disputed Scarborough Shoal, where Chinese vessels were reported to have driven away Filipino fishermen with a water cannon and seized some of their catch in early April. Philippine military officials say the maneuvers with …

  • Pinoy team wins global disaster preparedness competition

    The Philippines was one of the big winners at the 2015 Global Innovation Competition last week for a cloud-based information system for disaster. The project, called "Balangay," is the brainchild of cousins Frei Sangil and Paolo Sangil. …

  • How Asia uses Bitcoin in one color-coded map
    How Asia uses Bitcoin in one color-coded map

    Bitcoin is a global phenomenon, but not everyone around the world uses it in the same way. Here in Asia, the way a person from the Philippines uses bitcoin is probably very different from how it’s used in Thailand, and both are very different from the typical user in Taiwan. Despite bitcoin being hailed as …

  • Pacmania sweeps Philippines ahead of Mayweather clash
    Pacmania sweeps Philippines ahead of Mayweather clash

    Manny Pacquiao's face is on shirts, dolls and postage stamps, his life story is playing in movie houses and millions are getting ready to party as the Philippine boxing hero's "fight of the century" nears. Pacmania is sweeping the Southeast Asian nation of 100 million people ahead of the May 2 Las Vegas bout against unbeaten Floyd Mayweather to decide who is the best boxer of their generation. Of course, it's the fight of the century," Manila film producer Lucky Blanco told AFP. …

  • Manila 'cute little submissive' of US: China media
    Manila 'cute little submissive' of US: China media

    The Philippines is nothing more than the "cute little submissive" of the United States, a Chinese tabloid with close ties to the ruling Communist Party said on Tuesday, criticising Manila for military exercises with Washington. The English-language editorial came a day after the Philippines launched giant 10-day war games with the US and Australia, partly aimed as a warning shot to Beijing amid competing claims in the South China Sea, home to vital shipping routes. "Of all the countries …

  • Philippines seeks more military aid from US to counter China
    Philippines seeks more military aid from US to counter China

    The Philippines said Tuesday it would soon ask the United States for more military equipment and training to build its defences, as it faces Chinese "aggressiveness" in disputed waters. As hundreds of Filipino and American Marines simulated an amphibious assault to reclaim territory from invaders during annual war games, military chief General Gregorio Catapang told AFP he was drafting a "wish list" for US aid. Catapang said the Philippines would ask for "equipment and training", when Foreign …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options