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Thursday, May 23, 2024
HomeNewsWorldObama: Goal Of US-Philippine Security Pact Not To ‘Counter’ Or ‘Contain’ China

Obama: Goal Of US-Philippine Security Pact Not To ‘Counter’ Or ‘Contain’ China

US-Philippine security pact
US-Philippine security pact

US President Barack Obama talks during a joint news conference with President Benigno Aquino of the Philippines. (Photo: Strait Times)

President Obama spoke about a new 10-year US-Philippine security pact Monday that would grant the U.S. limited access to military bases in the Philippines. The Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement is part of a larger plan dubbed the Asian pivot, which aims to balance an increasingly militarized China in the Pacific region.

“We want to be a partner with you in upholding international law,” Obama said of China at a joint press conference with President Benigno Aquino of the Philippines.

“Our goal is not to counter China. Our goal is not to contain China. Our goal is to make sure international rules and norms are respected and that includes in the area of international disputes,” Obama said.

U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg and the Philippine Defense Secretary, Voltaire Gazmin, signed the agreement at the main Manila-based military camp just before Obama arrived in the Philippines.

Obama’s overnight stay in the Philippines is his last stop on what has been a week-long trip to Asia to shore-up U.S. commitments to its allies, and to discuss recent aggressive posturing by China over territorial disputes. Obama visited Japan, South Korea and Malaysia, all of which have had disputed claims in the South China Sea, an area rich with fuel deposits. In the dispute, the United States has always been reluctant to choose a position favoring one nation over another, a sentiment Obama continues.

“We don’t even take a specific position on the disputes between nations, but as a matter of international law and international norms, we don’t think that coercion and intimidation is the way to manage these disputes,” Obama said. He said when the U.S. has similar disputes with its neighbors, it relies upon dialogue diplomacy, not threats. “We don’t go around sending ships and threatening folks.”

But actions speak louder than words, and from a security studies position China is concerned. Obama signed a similar agreement with Australia previously as part of the pivot to Asia. It is becoming clear he is responding to China’s apparent desire for regional hegemony. Last year, the Chinese coast guard surrounded another offshore South China Sea territory, the Second Thomas Shoal. The South China Sea, which Obama flew over to view by air, by all estimates is vastly rick in oil and gas resources. And China wants to control production of them.

Back in November, 2013, China scrambled two fighter jets to investigate — rather intimidate — U.S. and Japanese aircraft that flew into a newly created air defense zone China says is off limits unless permission is granted. China had announced a week earlier that all aircraft entering the airspace over the disputed area located between China, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan, must first notify Chinese authorities. China said they would take unspecified measures against those who do not comply.

President Aquino said the new agreement “takes our security cooperation to a higher level of engagement, reaffirms our countries’ commitment to mutual defense and security, and promotes regional peace and stability.”

The country’s military, which has struggled to develop to an adequate force, are pleased with the deal that certainly means more U.S. assistance to accomplish their goals. But not everyone was pleased.

A group of roughly 800 Filipino activists burned U.S. flags while chanting “no-bama, no bases, no war” on the road to the gates of the palace where Obama met with Aquino. Some burned an effigy of Obama riding a chariot pulled by Aquino, who was depicted as a dog. In fact, the Philippine Constitution prohibits the establishment of permanent U.S. military bases.

However, U.S. military personnel have been present and active in the southern Philippines since 2002, tasked with providing Filipino forces training in counterterrorism who have also struggled to fight Muslim extremists in the region.

Written by

Laura Lee Baris is the Assistant Editor at People's Pundit Daily (PPD) and the Producer of "Inside the Numbers" with the People's Pundit. Laura covers politics, entertainment, culture and women's issues. She is also married to the People's Pundit, Richard D. Baris, and a mother to their two beautiful children.

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